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article imageCalifornia egg law will affect all of us after Jan. 1

By Karen Graham     Dec 13, 2014 in Food
Farmers nationwide wanting to sell eggs in California will have to be in compliance with the state's new egg law as of January 1, 2015. Otherwise known as Proposition 2, the law requires chicken cages to be roomier.
Eggs in California are expected to cost more per dozen as the new law on roomier cages for laying hens goes into affect on Jan. 1. While wholesale egg prices are already over $2.27 per dozen nationally, a 34 percent rise over last year, with the new law, the price to California consumers could jump at least 20 percent in the first few months of 2015 says Dermot J. Hayes, an agribusiness professor at Iowa State University in Ames. He is forecasting the rest of the nation will follow suit a short time later.
California voters approved Proposition 2 in 2008 by a two-thirds margin. Pushed through by the Humane Society of America, the ballot required California egg producers to provide chickens with enough room to stand up, turn around and stretch their wings.
California gets 30 percent of its eggs from out-of-state. State legislators realized the law would result in California egg producers having unfair competition with out-of-state egg producers. Two years later, Assembly Bill 1437 was signed into law, applying to all eggs sold in the shell in the state of California. This included eggs brought in for sale from out-of-state.
The law caused a lot of angry words with out-of-state egg producers, who didn't like California telling them how to cage their chickens, but a federal judge disagreed in October, 2014, saying anyone wanting to sell eggs in California would be required to comply with the state's law. “You’re going to see some really large spikes in the price of eggs in January,” said Scott Ramsdell, who owns Dakota Layers LLP in Flandreau, South Dakota.
Prior to the law going into affect, laying-hen cages (containing nine or more hens) had small partitioned cages with only about 67 square inches per bird, a little less than a piece of typing paper. The hen could only stick her head out to peck at grains or corn, but was not able to move around. The new cages now have to have a minimum of 116 square inches of floor space per bird, a 73 percent increase over the old cages.
There is real concern over rising consumption of eggs brought on by rising beef and pork prices. Because meats have gotten so expensive, eggs turned out being a natural alternative for getting protein in the diet. According to the Egg Industry Center in Ames, Iowa, average consumers will eat 266 eggs next year, up from 261 this year and the most since 1980. In the past month, the retail price of a dozen eggs in California has already jumped to as much as $4.49 a dozen at major grocery stores. Some experts are wondering if this price rise is going to spread nationwide.
More about California, Proposition 2, egg law, roomier cages, eggs in the shell
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