Groups debate federal animal care standards for egg laying hens

Buckeye Farm News

The Issue

Federal animal care legislation has been introduced in line with an agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers.

In The Bill

Conventional hen cages would be replaced during a phase-in period with what is known as enriched colony housing. This type of housing provides each hen with double the amount of current space. Hens would have access to perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas.

Producers would not be allowed to cause hens to molt by withdrawing feed or water.

Excessive ammonia levels in hen houses would be prohibited.

The bill would also prohibit the transport or sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that do not meet these requirements.

The Debate

Are these bills good public policy?

Groups that support the bill:

Ohio Poultry Association

Ohio Egg Processors Association

American Veterinary Medical Association

The Humane Society of the U.S.

National egg groups that represent the vast majority of egg producers.

Groups that oppose the bill:

American Farm Bureau Federation

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

National Pork Producers Council

National Milk Producers Federation.

In Favor

Those in favor of the legislation say it would level the playing field for all producers by creating uniform, national requirements to produce, transport and sell eggs. In addition, they believe the requirements are important for hen welfare, economic certainty and an affordable egg supply for consumers.


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 farmers who are not regulated under this proposal but are fearful of the precedent it will set.

Current Policy

Current Ohio Farm Bureau policy:

We support properly researched, veterinary approved and industry-tested poultry and livestock practices that provide consumers with a wholesome food supply. The Ohio Department of Agriculture should administer any animal welfare laws at the state level. We support the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLSCB) and its uniform set of standards governing the care and well-being of livestock in Ohio that maintains food safety, encourages locally grown and raised food and protects Ohio farms and families.

Current American Farm Bureau policy

We oppose legislation that would give animal rights organizations the right to establish standards for raising, marketing, handling, feeding, housing or transportation of livestock, including equines, poultry, aquaculture and fur-bearing animals. We oppose any laws which would mandate specific farming practices in livestock production. We support the right of farmers to raise livestock in accordance with commonly accepted agricultural practices. We support properly researched and industry-tested poultry and livestock practices that provide consumers with a wholesome food supply and enable farmers to improve the care and management of livestock and poultry. We oppose initiatives, referendums or legislation that create standards above sound veterinary science and best management standards.

Discussion questions

Should a sector within the agricultural community, such as egg producers, be able to create its own laws if it has the support of the majority of its producers?

Egg producers are trying to create certainty and a level playing field for their industry. They want to do this by creating a new federal law containing care standards specifically in statute. Is this acceptable?

Generally, OFBF policy now supports creating animal care standards through rules but not setting specific standards in statute at the state level. Should this continue to be our state policy and should we provide stronger language clarifying our policy?

Should farmers be required by federal statute to meet animal care standards? Should AFBF policy be changed to reflect OFBF policy that supports care standards established in rulemaking process versus specific standards being included in statute?

Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.

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