California's New Egg Law: Worth the Price Increase

California’s new law on eggs sold in the states—cages will be nearly twice the size of the industry standard—may also mean more expensive eggs.

“Proposition 2, as it's called, required eggs in California to come from chickens that have enough room to fully extend their limbs and turn around freely,” NPR explains. “It was a direct challenge to the egg industry, because most egg-laying chickens can't do that in standard henhouses, where they live in small cages, five or 10 birds to a cage.”

And the ruling, which goes into effect on January 1st, 2015, has been “a shock to the egg industry, and to grocery stores,” reports NPR. “Eggs are one of those staples that self-respecting grocery retailers absolutely, positively have to keep in stock,” but the egg industry is worried that the higher prices could mean a loss of sales.

Still, the move is a big victory for animal welfare advocates and the chickens. After working with experts, the state decided “each chicken is legally entitled to at least 116 square inches of floor space,” NPR explains.

The new rule means that most of the egg producers in the country can’t sell their eggs in the state of California. As expected, most aren’t too happy about the decision and have attempted to get the ruling overturned in court. All efforts to get the bill overturned have failed so far, and “other egg producers have built new henhouses — either free-range houses, where chickens can walk around on the floor, or houses with larger ‘enriched cages,’ featuring perches and enclosed hutches where chickens can lay their eggs,” reports NPR. But most producers are just decreasing their flock sizes, rather than upgrading the conditions for the animals.

The downside of decreased flock sizes means fewer eggs, which means higher prices.

“According to government statistics, the number of egg-laying chickens in California has fallen by 23 percent over the past two years,” NPR explains. “In the rest of the country, though, egg production is expanding, and egg brokers who supply the California market have been ringing up egg producers all across the country, offering high prices for eggs that meet California's new rules.”

But Californians don’t seem to mind paying more for eggs, at least not for the time being. And while the new rule is a boon to the majority of the chickens producing eggs, many small-scale organic farmers are already working with much more humane conditions for chickens that produce higher quality eggs as well as more ethical ones. Like with anything, good food is worthy of an investment, even with something as simple as an egg.

Image via John Loo


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