California considers making cage-free eggs a state law

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California voters are considering a measure that requires all eggs sold in the state to come from cage-free hens by 2022.

Chickens appear at a chicken house near Livingston, Calif. roposition 12 on California's November ballot would require that egg-laying hens be cage free by 2022.

Dubbed the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, Proposition 12 would set minimum requirements on the size of cages or pens housing breeding pigs and calves raised for veal. It also would ban the sale of veal or pork in California from farms that don't comply.

Supporters say the measure is a step toward more humane farming practices, while opponents say it doesn't go far enough.

Proposition 12 seeks to build on another ballot measure that passed in 2008 — Proposition 2, which banned California farmers from keeping the same animals in tiny cages but lacked specific size requirements for the cages and pens.

The latest measure is backed by the Humane Society of the United States and a number of animal welfare groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sierra Club and Center for Food Safety.

The measure's opponents include animal welfare groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who say it doesn't go far enough to prevent animal cruelty.
Hollywood vegans like Ellen Degeneres and Daryl Hannah have tweeted their support for the measure, along with Bette Midler and actress Kristen Bell.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2 in 2008, banning California farms from keeping the animals in cages so cramped they couldn't stand up, lie down or turn around.

Since then, major food companies including McDonald's, Costco, Taco Bell and others have announced they would only buy cage-free eggs.

Proposition 2 lacked specific minimum requirements for cage sizes and did not apply to out-of-state farmers whose products were sold in California.

However, Proposition 12 requires that, starting in 2020, calves confined for production have at least 43 square feet (4 square meters) of usable floor space, while breeding pigs must be given at least 24 square feet (2.2 square meters) of floor space in their pens starting in 2022.

Egg-laying hens, starting in 2020, would have to be given 1 square foot (0.1 square meter) of floor space each and must be cage-free by 2022, according to Proposition 12.
Farm groups that oppose the measure, including the National Pork Producers Council, say it will raise the costs for farmers and, as a result, raise food prices.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says Proposition 12 would likely result in an increase in prices for eggs, pork and veal partly because farmers would have to remodel or build new housing for animals.

It could also cost the state as much as $10 million a year to enforce and millions of dollars more a year in lost tax revenue from farm businesses that choose to stop or reduce production because of higher costs, the office said.