We fully support the Op-Ed by Will Coggin in the March 26th edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled “California Flies the Constitutional Coop.” Mr. Coggin’s Op-Ed correctly noted that California is assuming the role of determining the commerce of eggs which is a violation of the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 granting the U.S. Congress the power to regulate commerce between the States. California Title 3 Section 1350 of the CA Code of Regulations requires out-of-state egg farmers selling eggs in California to implement CA’s Salmonella reduction which goes beyond the federal guidelines under FDA’s food safety standards for eggs (Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 118 [21 CFR Part 118], “Production, Storage, and Transportation of Shell Eggs). This action to regulate commerce is why 5 other states have joined the initiative behind Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster’s lawsuit against the California Attorney General along with members of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Those states are Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Alabama.
California has also claimed in other newspapers that food safety, quality, and welfare were reasons for supporting this regulation. Consider the following evidence in rebuttal.
As it relates to food safety, Dr. R.K. Gast at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southeast Regional Laboratory in Athens, GA along with 3 other scientists recently published their findings that there is no significant differences (P > 0.05) in the frequency of egg contamination by Salmonella in chickens housed in conventional cages as compared to enriched cages, the ones promoted by California in their regulation. (Poultry Science 2014 Mar;93(3):728-33. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03641).
California claimed better quality eggs. However, the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply is reporting on their website that their research showed that egg quality was not impacted by hen housing systems (http://www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org/).
California claimed better welfare with their enriched cages as compared to conventional cages. This too has been shown to be faulty. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2010 released a report on the welfare implications of various kinds of housing. (www.avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/cage_noncage_systems.asp) The report concluded consumers need to balance the hen’s freedom against exposure to potential hazards such as disease vectors and the cannibalism caused by pecking. Certainly cannibalism and pecking are welfare issues, and in conventional cages where the number of chickens is minimized, these concerns are also reduced compared to other systems.
Dr. Kenneth Anderson, NC State University, presented his research findings to delegates at the 2010 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention March 16-18, 2010 where he noted that chickens reared in conventional cages (310 sq. cm/bird) had significantly greater numbers of Grade A eggs, significantly greater numbers of total eggs produced, and significantly better feed conversion rates (meaning a lower carbon footprint), and a better immune response (meaning better able to resist disease). Certainly these are indicators of a healthier chicken and thus better welfare.
We appreciate that the readers of the Wall Street Journal can understand that California’s egg regulations are, in addition to being unconstitutional, also not science-based, but instead just more political science.