Policy & Politics
Federal Animal Care Standards for Egg Laying Hens
Introduction: Federal legislation has been introduced that would codify an agreement between the Humane Society of the U.S. and the United Egg Producers dealing with cage size and other animal care standards for our nation’s 280 million egg-laying hens. The legislation requires conventional cages to be replaced during a phase-in period with enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen with double the amount of current space. The bill requires perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas and prohibits feed- or water-withdrawal molting and excessive ammonia levels in henhouses. The bill will also prohibit the transport or sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that do not meet these requirements.
Issue: There are differing opinions on whether these bills are good public policy. Those in favor of the legislation support nationwide uniform regulation that requires compliance in order to transport and sell eggs nationwide, believing it would create a level playing field for all producers. In addition, they believe the requirements are important for hen welfare, industry economics and certainty and an affordable egg supply for consumers. Groups that support the bill include Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio Egg Processors Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, The Humane Society of the U.S. and national egg groups that represents the vast majority of egg producers.
Those in opposition to the legislation believe that animal care standards should not be set at the federal level and should not be in statute. This concern extends to other livestock producers who are not regulated under this proposal but are fearful of the precedent it will set. Those opposing this legislation include American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council and National Milk Producers Federation.