Monday, December 11, 2023

Legislation would require California eggs be cage-free by 2024

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new bill introduced in the California Assembly would require all eggs produced and sold in California to be cage-free by Jan. 1, 2024.

The bill recognizes the United Egg Producers cage-free national standards so farmers will know years in advance of what is required to comply with the proposed law and the legislation seeks to stagger the implementation of the hen housing requirements to ensure a steady supply while minimizing price volatility.

This staggered approach is expected to help maintain a ready supply of California compliant eggs and minimize any impacts on supply or price for California’s consumers.

Chad Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers said “the cage free language they are using in their legislation is the same as what UEP and others are using to describe and define cage free egg production.”

The UEP board in May 2017 approved language to establish the definition of cage-free hen housing for the industry.

The language stated: “Cage-free eggs are laid by hens that are able to roam vertically and horizontally in indoor houses, and have access to fresh food and water. Cage-free systems vary from farm-to-farm, and can include multi-tier aviaries. They must allow hens to exhibit natural behaviors and include enrichments such as scratch areas, perches and nests. Hens must have access to litter, protection from predators and be able to move in a barn in a manner that promotes bird welfare.”

According to USDA, more than 72 percent of the nation’s food, retail, hospitality, foodservice and food manufacturing businesses have committed to serve and sell cage-free eggs with many of those targeting 2025 for exclusive use of cage-free eggs.

This new bill expedites that timeline but provides a progression of enclosure requirements resulting in full cage-free production consistent with national and international standards insuring a practical implementation of recognized welfare standards.

Under the bill’s requirements, all hens must be provided at least 144 square inches of space on Jan. 1, 2020, progressing to full cage free production by Jan. 1, 2024.

The bill, AB 3021, is authored by Assembly Members Marc Levine (San Francisco), Rudy Salas (Bakersfield) and Jose Medina, (Riverside).

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