Happy Hens, Fewer Eggs, Higher Prices

October 13, 2017 02:17 PM

California’s controversial “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act” (also known as Proposition 2) sought to make the state’s egg-laying hens happier when voters banned battery cages in the state beginning in 2015. The law – which passed with 63% of the vote – required hens be given about twice as much space as was the industry standard.

Results of Proposition 2 are mixed – hens may be happier, but consumers and farmers are not.

The initial impact of the new law was detrimental to egg farmers. They were either forced to spend money to upgrade facilities – some estimates put the price of building new, cage-free facilities at $40 per bird – or go out of business.

In an effort to protect California egg farmers, the state legislature expanded the law to cover all eggs sold in the state, i.e., that eggs imported to California stores must be produced under the same requirements as California-produced eggs. The effort to guarantee the success of cage-free eggs has caused eggs prices to rise between 33% and 70%, according to some estimates.

Now, new research from Conner Mullally of the University of Florida and Jayson Lusk of Purdue University, examines the impact of laws like California’s Proposition 2. The research is titiled, “The impact of Farm Animal Housing Restrictions on Egg Prices, Consumer Welfare, and Production in California.”

“You can change the animal welfare and the treatment of animals but it’s not going to be free,” Mullally says. “We were able to look at how much people paid for a dozen eggs compared to some cities outside California thanks to grocery store data.”

These laws aren’t stopping in California. There was an effort in the 2014 Farm Bill debate to establish federal guidelines, and since then several individual states are taking a look at enacting similar animal welfare laws.

“This is a developing story,” Mullally says. “We’re able to look at the impact of these laws to this point but this is the kind of thing that is likely going to have an impact over time.”

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Spell Check

Odessa, FL
10/14/2017 05:33 AM

  Cage free means bupkus." Free range" on grassy pastures where they can eat bugs and a variety of weeds and plants is what makes the difference. Most "cage free" chickens are raised in big crowded warehouses or on big crowded lots with absolutely nothing different about their diets and very little different about their freedom. They are fed the exact same rations as caged birds. Therefore, their eggs are absolutely no different than the eggs with the pale nearly tasteless yolks for cheaper caged eggs. Free range chickens that are rotated in open pastures produce eggs that are a world of difference in taste and have richer, deeper colored yolks than the caged variety and are well worth the difference in cost. I raise free range chickens for eggs myself. I feed them a variety of plant material I raise myself along with their regular layer feed and their is no comparison between the eggs my chickens lay and the nasty eggs bought from the store.

Canton, ME
10/14/2017 09:41 AM

  I recall that egg prices nearly tripled here a couple years ago due to Avian flu (I believe) and people, including myself, still bought eggs. I don't recall cutting back any either. Maybe it impacted less fortunate people who had to cut back some, but I believe most might have just complained some but still absorbed and accepted the price.

elkland, MO
1/6/2018 05:07 AM

  seems to me we"re all paying higher prices for eggs, , so that the producers, can get more revenue due to this cali., lawsuit, so we"re paying for the lawsuit in higher egg prices, by the way, everything has eggs in it, so across the board, fast food ect., will be higher, this is crap, they need to work it out, why should consumers pay for their, legal costs?, they wont say that, but its not a shortage of eggs, its like the lies about higher gas prices, I think it stinks, from, 79 cents, or 99 cents a dozen, to , 1.69 , and higher, this stinks, that's like double, or more, I hope it don't last long, for sure, they never really tell us the real reasons behind the higher prices. they should pay for there own lawsuits themselves, or at least tell us there passing the costs on to us, and for how long?, media, is silent and mum as usual, all effect economy, and families., didn't see avian flu prices go up, like this, , kieth is wrong, this is definite price increase, by the way, price of egg feed is higher , to raise chickens, for there eggs, than, buying the eggs. people need to speak up.


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