Poultry Cage Laws Create Scrambled Eggs

Defending Agriculture

California's new cage-law runs 'afowl' of other states' ability to market products there

Published on: February 11, 2014

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is standing up for all of agriculture in a lawsuit filed on Feb. 3, 2014. He claims California is violating the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the United States Constitution by forcing Missouri egg producers to follow California's rules on producing eggs.

You may recall California voters, at the insistence of a coalition of the Humane Society of the U.S., Sierra Club of California, Consumer Federation of America and Farm Sanctuary, passed Proposition 2 in 2008 (63.4% to 34.6%) which restricted production methods available to California egg farmers.

It is estimated by the University of California Davis branch that it would take at least $385 million in capital improvements for California egg farmers to comply with the Proposition. Proponents said the Proposition "…prevents animal cruelty, promotes food safety, supports family farmers, and protects the environment."

Californias new cage-law runs afowl of other states ability to market products there
California's new cage-law runs 'afowl' of other states' ability to market products there

Proposition 2 is fairly simple. It requires California laying hens, in any enclosure, to have "…sufficient room for each hen to stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs." Egg farms in California generally keep 4-7 birds per cage, and they have approximately 67 square inches per bird. Proposition 2 bans the use of this size cage.

Proposition 2 did not require a specific amount of square inches per bird, but one report claims new cages must provide approximately 87-403 square inches per bird. California egg farmers and their supporters in the legislature cried "fowl." The farmers claimed they would be put out of business unless egg farmers in other states such as Indiana, Iowa and Missouri were required to build the same size enclosures.

California then passed a new law, AB 1437, which required egg farmers in other states to comply with California's requirements.  California said it could control the flow of goods across its state lines based on the method of production.

Missouri's Attorney General had the common sense and good judgment to stand up for his state's producers and claimed Missouri's egg farmers would lose access to their largest market because 1/3 of all eggs produced in Missouri are exported to California.

Missouri farmers are the second largest exporter of shell eggs to California. Mr. Koster raises an excellent point in his complaint that Missouri farmers would have to build expensive new enclosures and that cost plus transportation would force many Missouri farmers out of business. What a relief it is to see an Attorney General stand up for his state's farm producers!

Related: Missouri AG Set To Sue California Over Egg Laws

Iowa, for example, is the number one exporter of shell eggs to California. Iowa's Attorney General took a pass on filing such a lawsuit. (I know because I asked the Attorney General's office to bring such a suit.)

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  1. Rockethound says:

    Allowing chickens enough room to stand and stretch their wings? Madness! What reasonable person would support that? Surely everyone accepts that the only viable business practice is for farmers to consider hens as nothing more than biological production units.

  2. Randy Janssen of SACHARRO.COM says:

    The HSUS is not your local animal shelter. The HSUA has been hijacked by radical animal rights activist. It is an over 150 million dollar corporation that spends almost every dime it gets on obscene salaries and filing lawsuits. It raises money by showing ads of cute dogs and cats, but it spends less then 1 cent on the dollar to feed and shelter cats and dogs. More and more members of congress are questioning the tax free status of the HSUS because of its political activities. The HSUS IS AGAINST RODEO AND WESTERN TRADITIONS. IT IS FOR A VEGETERIAN LIFE STYLE AND AGAIST EATING MEAT. The HSUS has been accused of paying employes to abuse animals and videoing the abuse as proof that meat production should be stopped. The HSUS wants to change our eating habits and standard of living by outlawing factory farming methods which are used on family farms. The HSUS is bad for America so don't applaud its lackeys. If you want to support something think about giving to the child fund, St. Jude, the Wounded Warriors, or you local food bank. If you want to help animals, give money to you local animal shelter. Giving money to the HSUS is giving money to a large bureaucracy that waste it on salaries and litigation. It claims to do good but if you really look at what it does, it only piggybacks on the work of local organizations.

    • Brian says:

      I don't believe the HSUS ever claimed it was your local animal shelter. It's primarily an advocacy and policy org that also has a rescue division, but never claims to be the neighborhood cat & dog adoption source: "Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs." According to CharityNavigator.com, HSUS has an excellent record of putting donations to work, not paying "obscene salaries": http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3848 As for the filing of lawsuits, of course: That's a big part of how change is effected. As for being against "western traditions", inasmuch as those include abuse of animals in factory farming any person of morality would support that. But since that's wishful thinking, that's what the lawsuits are for.