Jan06

NAEF Corrects NYTimes Op-Ed on California Egg Law

The Op-Ed by Mark Bittman in The New York Times [“Hens Unbounded, Dec. 31] misleads readers into thinking the new California egg law is good for chickens as well as Californians. Speaking on behalf of the National Association of Egg Farmers and farmers outside of California providing the majority of the eggs consumed in California, the “wake-up call” for consumers on January 1st has already left them scrambling for explanations.  Egg prices have risen more than 100% in California between January and December 2014 in anticipation of this new law. This will continue as it did in Europe when they enacted their new law January 1, 2012.  Where Mr. Bittman is mistaken, is thinking this will lead to better welfare for the hens.  The incidence of bones broken in the colony cages [proposed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture] have been noted by scientists were greater than conventional systems.  This is because of the larger running areas coupled with the additional features in the cages (nest boxes, scratch pads, perches) where chickens can be injured when frightened. Added to this is the increased incidence of pecking that will take place when more chickens are in larger groupings.  Hardly welfare enhancements when bones are broken or chickens pecked.  The food safety component is also a mistaken thought.  The colony cages have been shown to have higher levels of pathogenic bacterial. This was reported in the journal Food Control of this year “Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Systems.”  This scientific report noted that chickens in conventional cages on wire slats allow feces to fall through to the floor below whereas free-range with nest boxes [also available in the California-style of cage] have fecal matter in them contaminating the egg shells with bacteria.   While we do not expect any of this to sway Mr. Bittman nor Paul Shapiro, HSUS, quoted in the article, we are hopeful that readers will consider these explanations for conventional production methods in egg production today in producing a safe, wholesome egg while caring for the needs of the chicken based on available science.

Jan02

HSUS and NAEF Battle on Radio Over California Egg Law

Ken Klippen, National Association of Egg Farmers, and Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the U.S.,  battled it out over the radio KQED, San Francisco.  Scott Shafer was the moderator and he included Sasha Khokha, Central Valley Bureau Chief with KQED from California, who could detail the new egg law.   Klippen said the CA law is bad for both the chicken and the consumer.  The welfare is not improved due to increased bones being broken when the chicken injures herself on the enhancements in the cages, nor is it improved when the population density is increased in the larger cage and the pecking order causes stress to those chickens lower on the pecking order.  It will not be good for Consumers as California has seen a 100% price increase this past year coupled an increased incidence of bacterial contamination from the eggs laid in the nest boxes where manure may be accumulating.  Quoting from the journal “Food Control”, the article submitted in April 2014 entitled “Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Housing Systems” reported that conventional cages allow the feces to fall beneath the cages whereas free-range hens laid their eggs in nest boxes (and by extension Enhanced Colony Cages that provides nest boxes) thus explaining the higher pathogenic bacteria counts on the egg shells.

 

Pacelle said Klippen represented a marginal group of egg farmers who opposed the national egg bill whereas UEP, representing 90% of all egg farmers, supported a federal mandate.  He also stated the chicken today can’t turn around in its cage.  Klippen refuted the ability of the chicken to turn around saying “this is misinformation” being disseminated.  As it related to the size of NAEF, Klippen noted we are a new association that is growing and has members coast-to-coast.  Klippen added he used to work for UEP, and this new association has members of both organizations, but they keep a low profile to prevent being targeted by the animal activists.

 

The evolution of the egg production practices has resulted in today’s conventional cages, but the animal activists that are pressing for cage-free and free-range will revert back to production methods in practices decades ago, said Klippen.

Listen to the debate by logging in:

http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201412310930

Dec29

Response to LA Times Editorial on California Egg Law

Dear Editor:

The LA Times Editorial Board is mistaken in thinking the new California egg law is good for chickens as well as Californians (December 26th editorial “California’s egg-laying hens to get their breathing room”).  Speaking on behalf of the National Association of Egg Farmers and farmers outside of California providing the majority of the eggs consumed in California, the “wake-up call” for consumers on January 1st will leave them and you scrambling for explanations.  Egg prices nationwide have risen 35% in anticipation of the law being enacted.  More so in California. This will continue as it did in Europe when they enacted their new law January 1, 2012.  Where the LA Times Editorial Board is mistaken, is thinking this will lead to better welfare for the hens.  The incidence of bones broken in the colony cages have been noted by scientists when compared to conventional systems.  This is because of the larger running areas coupled with the additional features in the cages (nest boxes, scratch pads, perches) where chickens can be injured when frightened. Added to this is the increased incidence of pecking that will take place when more chickens are in larger groupings.  Hardly welfare enhancements when bones are broken or chickens pecked.  The food safety component is also a mistaken thought.  The colony cages have been shown to have higher levels of pathogens including total aerobes and coliforms when compared to conventional systems due to fecal contamination of the shells.  Those nest boxes and scratch pads provide additional areas for manure to collect and thus contaminate.  So before you start “crowing” over  your vision of being “more humane” and showing the rest of the nation how you should be emulated, consider there are reasons for the production methods in egg production today and those have led to the conventional systems available in the other states.

 

 

 

California's egg-laying hens to get their breathing room

 

By THE LA TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

In January, California's egg-laying hens must be freed from cramped battery cages many egg farms use. Next month, all of California's 15 million egg-laying hens must be freed from the cramped, restrictive battery cages that have long been used on most egg farms. In the future, they will have enough space to stand up, lie down, turn around, and spread their wings without touching another bird. Though they are no doubt unaware of it, they have waited more than six years and four lawsuits for the extra space. Proposition 2, which passed in 2008 by a landslide 63.5% of the vote, also covers gestating pigs and veal calves, but there are few pig and veal operations in the state, so the law's biggest effect is on the hens. A separate law requires all out-of-state egg producers that sell to California (which gets about a third of its eggs from farmers outside the state) to comply with the same housing standards for hens. Not surprisingly, egg producers have sued, variously arguing that Proposition 2 is vaguely worded or that the companion law unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce. All the suits have been dismissed. Two — including one brought by a group of state attorneys general led by Chris Koster of Missouri — are under appeal. Despite the backlash from egg producers and their allies, it is clear that these measures reflect a growing concern on the part of consumers about the welfare of farm animals. Just because they are certain to end up on a dinner plate or in a barn producing eggs or milk doesn't obviate the need to treat them humanely during their short lives.

 

It would be prudent for egg producers to end their legal challenges and start retrofitting their barns. They've had years to figure out how to create housing that meets the requirements of the law. The typical minuscule wire-mesh battery cages, offering 67 square inches of space per hen, won't do any longer. Many farmers are converting to bigger, taller colony cages that offer about 116 square inches of space and allow birds to move around in accordance with the law. Some producers are modifying existing battery cages to make one enclosure out of two or more.

Some producers are going even further than required, setting up completely cage-free barns for birds, allowing them to move around and even fly to different-level perches. And some major food companies are requiring that their egg suppliers go cage-free. The food services company Aramark uses only cage-free eggs in its California operations and has announced that all of the 30 million eggs it buys annually in the U.S. will come from cage-free hens by the end of this year. Unilever is well into the process of converting to cage-free eggs. Burger King has committed to having all of its eggs come from cage-free animals by 2017.

 

California voters, to their credit, were ahead of the game in voting to better the welfare of California's hens. Over time, that will lead to improvements for all 300 million egg-laying hens in the country.

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