- Six states are now involved in the lawsuit challenging a California law to take effect January 2015, which requires all eggs sold in the state to be the product of chickens whose cages “allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.”
- Last week, Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Alabama joined the suit started by Missouri's attorney general last month. Their contention is that the law would impose millions of dollars in costs to comply, thus violating the principle of interstate commerce guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
- More than a few dozen eggs are at stake here, as California represents the biggest domestic market for eggs.
Guidelines from the United Egg Producers, a cooperative that represents owners of about 95% of U.S. egg-laying hens, call for 67 to 86 square inches of floor space per bird and enough room for hens to stand up. The California law seeks at least 116 square inches of space per bird for enclosures housing nine or more chickens. Adding on those extra 30 to 49 inches can cost farmers $120 million, according to Chris Koster, Missouri's Attorney General who first filed the suit against California on February 3.
This issue seems to pit animals' wellbeing against industry profit in a vote--as the state of California did in this bill drafted in 2010. Here, legislation went in favor of the animals, the opposite of the direction taken by Idaho's "Ag-Gag" bill. The question is though, will it stand? Likely, the court will sustain the law, and egg producers will have to comply if they want to be able to continue to sell their wares in California.
As the co-owner of Centrum Valley Farms in Iowa, which ships about 720,000 dozen eggs a week to California, Steve Boomsma said the costs would be substantial, but "if that's what we have to do to sell eggs in California, we will do it."