Life for Egg-Laying Hens Could Improve With New Housing and Welfare Legislation

The Humane Society of the United States and the industry group United Egg Producers, traditionally adversaries, have come together to push legislation that will require egg producers to improve conditions for egg-laying hens nationwide, replacing the widely-criticized-as-cruel battery cages with enriched colony housing systems and nearly doubling the space allotted for each hen.

Currently, an estimated 50 million hens currently live in a mere 48 square inches of space and others in 67 square inches. The legislation would increase space (eventually) to at least 124 square inches of space for white hens and 144 for brown hens.

The legislation will also require labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs—right now, labels have a tendency to be inaccurate and misleading.

The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 is bipartisan legislation also supported by other animal welfare groups, the National Consumers’ League, and major egg producers around the country.

Opposition from the Pork Industry... And the Humane Farming Association

The Humane Farming Association calls the legislation a "rotten egg bill"—saying if it's enacted, it will "stop cage-free laws in their tracks, despite the overwhelming desires of the American public."

And other animal livestock industries are not so pleased, with the National Pork Producers Council calling it a "Farm Takeover Bill."

NPPC president Doug Wolf said, "This HSUS-backed legislation would set a dangerous precedent that could let Washington bureaucrats dictate how livestock and poultry producers raise and care for their animals."

“This one-size-fits-all farm takeover bill is government intrusion on family farms at its worst and is unnecessary,” Wolf adds. “If enacted, it would open Pandora’s Box for special interest groups to pursue similar federal laws on pig farmers, dairy farmers and other family farming operations.”

Otherwise, Across-the-Board Support

The rest of the coalition supporting the legislation is pretty broad.

“I take my hat off to both organizations for putting aside their historical differences and working together to reach a deal that provides certainty for our farmers while providing improved conditions for the hens,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon.

“This agreement between the United Egg Producers and The Humane Society of the United States represents an important and necessary step in addressing the patchwork of state laws facing the industry and providing stability for farmers moving forward," Schrader added.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), ranking member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee said, “As an advocate for agriculture and animal welfare, I am pleased to join my colleagues in co-sponsoring this common-sense legislation that will help farmers, consumers and animals."

Food Safety News explains more about the bill:

In exchange for a national standard, HSUS agreed to stop seeking stricter state-level egg standard laws, which create a patchwork of varying and sometimes conflicting regulations for the industry. The Egg Inspection Act Amendments would put the deal struck between the two groups into law.

Accorning to HSUS, the bill would:

  • require conventional cages to be replaced during an ample phase-in period with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide all egg-laying hens nearly double the amount of current space;

  • require that, after a phase-in period, all egg-laying hens be provided with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express natural behaviors;

  • require labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs—“eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens” and “eggs from free-range hens”;

  • prohibit feed- or water-withdrawal molting to extend the laying cycle, a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers Certified program;

  • require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia of egg-laying hens;

  • prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses; and,

  • prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements

Life for Egg-Laying Hens Could Improve With New Housing and Welfare Legislation
Under a proposed bill, inhumane battery cages would be replaced with "enriched colony housing systems," and space allotted for each hen doubled.

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