Apr19

Rep. King's Bill is in the Farm Bill

The House Agriculture Committee passed a farm bill April 18th on a party-line vote afternoon (see story below National Egg Farmers Support Rep. King's HR4879).  It was a contentious vote due to some changes in the SNAP nutrition title (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The really good news is the committee adopted Rep. Steve King, R-IA, to prevent states from regulating how foods are grown or processed in other states. His bill "Protecting the Interstate Commerce Act" (PICA) was introduced specifically to target the California egg bill and other states following them. Rep. King proudly announced “We can’t let every state decide what’s going on in the other states or we refuse to accept their products." Rep. King heard from the National Egg Farmers who have been frustrated by California’s animal housing requirements with additional impediments expected in another upcoming ballet initiative. The committee rejected, 12-33, a substitute to King's amendment by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-CA (Denham opposed King's bill last time) that would have required USDA to report on existing state laws that affect the production, sale and labeling of agricultural products. 

 

Apr11

National Egg Farmers Testify Before Rhode Island Legislators on Cage-Free Chickens Bill

Rhode Island House Environment and Natural Resources Committee

Consideration of H 7456 Relating to Animals and Animal Husbandry –Unlawful Confinement of a Covered Animal (Egg Laying Chickens)

Testimony by Ken Klippen, President, National Association of Egg Farmers

April 5, 2018

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening in opposing H 7456 for two reasons; food safety and animal welfare. While the bill addresses unlawful confinement, it also mandates that chickens producing eggs have floor space consistent with the 2016 United Egg Producers Guidelines for Cage-Free Production.

 

FOOD SAFETY:

 

The US Animal Health Association October 17, 2017 Report stated: Ascarids (round worms) are increasingly being found in cage-free operations with the concern being the possibility of a consumer finding an egg with a roundworm contained inside. Most all cage-free egg producers have had such an occurrence.” Below is a picture showing round worms in the internal organ of an egg laying chicken as well as in an egg itself. Chickens pick up roundworms when they come into contact with infected feces on the ground.

In the Journal Food Control published a study June 17, 2014 entitled "Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Housing Systems"  The conclusions show why cages became the preferred method of producing eggs. "Battery caged hens (conventional cages) are standing on wire slats that allow feces to fall to a manure collection system beneath the hens.  Conversely, free-range hens (cage-free) laid their eggs in nest boxes on shavings and the eggs remained in contact with hens, shavings and fecal material until they are collected.  The longer contact time with free-range hens, shavings and feces would explain the higher enterobacteriaceae counts (pathogenic bacteria) on free-range eggs as compared to battery caged eggs."

 

Penn State researchers in September 2016 published their research findings that eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis as eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks of caged layers.

HUMANE

Cage-free increases the stress on chickens due to the establishment of a “pecking order” among the chickens.  This behavior is to determine the social standing of the individual hens through “pecking” each other.  The individual chicken lower in the social order is pecked the most.  When chickens are housed in conventional cages with 6 chickens, the establishment of this pecking order is minimized compared to thousands of chickens in a cage-free environment. The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a two-year study of different production systems, did not conclude that cage-free was the optimum system, but instead noted the mortality is nearly double that of caged systems.

The type of system proposed in the legislation will lead to more broken breast bones. Keel (breast) bone breakage reported highest in the aviary (cage-free) system over conventional cages.  A clear indication that cage-free systems are not more humane than conventional cages. Dr. Maja Makagon, Assistant Professor of Applied Animal Behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, reported the increased bone breakage from collisions with perches in cage-free systems.

 

Dr. Ivan Alvarado, DVM with Merck Global Business delivered an interesting presentation at the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 14, 2018 discussing external parasites in cage-free farms. 83% of European cage-free egg farms are already infested with poultry red mites. This harmful mite is extremely costly to the poultry industry with annual European industry losses at EUR360 million (US$446.54 million). Red mites are not a problem in conventional cages. All 27 member nations in the EU are about 40% cage-free compared to 16% in the U.S. Dr. Alvarado said an effective drug for Red Mites is Fluranaler and is in use in the EU. It has not yet received approval in the U.S. Subjecting poultry to parasites without the benefit of approved medication is inhumane.

It is for these reasons we are opposed to H 7456 which mandates all eggs sold come from these cage-free systems of production.

Thank you.

 

Apr11

Those Opposing and Those in Favor of RI Cage-Free Bill

  1. Opposing Testimony April 5th before RI Legislators on Cage-Free Bill

On April 5th in Providence, Rhode Island, there were several supporters joining the sole egg farmer, Eli Berkowitz, Little Rhody Farms, Foster, RI in testifying before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee considering the cage-free egg bill H7456 . The others included Will Coggin with HumaneWatch, Ken Klippen with the National Egg Farmers, Dianne Sullivan from Massachusetts who works with the National Pork Producers Council. (Sullivan led the effort that National Egg Farmers joined in opposing the Massachusetts ballot), and Dr. Scott Marshall, RI State Veterinarian. Berkowitz explained how he inherited the farm from his father and that consumers are not demanding cage-free with only approximately 15% of the production nationwide cage-free. His answers to legislators questions cleared up much confusion about egg production. Coggin attacked HSUS as lacking credibility and continues to face challenges for misconduct. Klippen showed a picture of round worm infestation from cage-free and as well as Red Mite problems for cage-free. He also referenced the research on broken breast bones from perches and the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply did not conclude cage-free to be the ideal form of producing eggs. Sullivan cited the economic impact on federal programs like WIC and SNAP. Dr. Marshall noted how veterinarians familiar with egg production are opposed to the legislation.

 

II. Supporting Testimony on RI Cage-Free Egg Bill

HSUS, ASPCA, “Humane” Veterinarians, and one person who has chicken pets testified in support of the RI cage-free egg bill H7456. Citing the egg industry’s own economic analysis (dating back to 2008 and California Prop 2) HSUS said the economic impact would only be one cent per egg. They also refuted claims that the cost of eggs in California continue to remain higher than the rest of the country, saying the increased cost initially was due to the outbreak of Avian Influenza. (The data Klippen provided last year in this same hearing was California egg prices were 90% higher in 2016. The year of the AI outbreak 2015, those prices were 49% higher). Other claims by the bill’s supporters were the incidence of Salmonella being higher in “battery” production. The cited the 2010 outbreak (DeCoster) resulting in a recall of millions of eggs. They claimed research has shown Salmonella is more prevalent in “battery production”. The most blatant effort by the animal activists was a veterinarian who tried to refute Klippen’s testimony saying round worms are not a food safety concern since humans cannot pick up round worms from chickens.

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