On June 12th the NAEF wrote to each of the 37 individual Senators in the state of Rhode Island alerting them to a forthcoming companion bill to H6023 calling for the elimination of cages for chickens producing table eggs and urging a “no” vote. The RI House is expected to pass a revised version of H6023 June 15th after testimony by NAEF and 3 others including the sole cage-layer farmer spoke against the original bill on April 6th showing the misinformation being put forward by HSUS.
NAEF explained that the basis for this current legislation is not what's best for the chicken or the consumer in Rhode Island as demonstrated by these three lines of evidence 1) will not improve welfare, 2) food safety concerns, 3) cost-benefit and the elimination of choices for the consumers. This email will outline why the last remaining Rhode Island egg farmer who produces eggs from caged chickens along with the National Association of Egg Farmers opposes a legislative mandate that all eggs sold in Rhode Island must be from cage-free chickens.
1. Cage-Free Will Not Improve Welfare
Chickens establish a pecking order among a population of birds. Farmers learned decades ago that chickens loose on the ground were injuring themselves from pecking. By reducing the colony size in a cage to 6-8 birds, establishing the pecking order is minimized instead of a pecking order being established among thousands of chickens.
New Research Shows More Bone Breakage in Cage-Free
A new research study shows the majority of breast bone damage originates from collisions with perches in cage-free environments. Dr. Maja Makagon, assistant professor of applied animal behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, noted the increased bone breakage and reported it at the Egg Industry Issues Forum in Columbus, Ohio in April 2017. Dr. Makagon noted the breast bone integrity is increasingly seen as an indicator of animal welfare, those broken bones are associated with increased mortality, reduced egg production and egg quality, and pain for the animal.
2. Food Safety. Penn State researchers have found that eggs from small flocks of chickens (typically cage-free) are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis as eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks. The results were published in the September 16, 2016 issue of PSU News: http://news.psu.edu/story/425880/2016/09/14/research/eggs-small-flocks-just-likely-contain-salmonella-enteritidis&;source=gmail&ust=1497475722212000&usg=AFQjCNFb0SSR6CU_rWclch_mDq0L-UapTw">http://news.psu.edu/story/425880/2016/09/14/research/eggs-small-flocks-just-likely-contain-salmonella-enteritidis
That conclusion was drawn from a six-month study done last year in Pennsylvania. Researchers from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences collected and tested more than 6,000 eggs from more than 200 selling points across the state for the study.
3. The Cost Benefit Analysis
H6023 and its companion bill in the Senate will also be harmful to consumers and eliminate consumer choice. The costs to produce cage-free would increase the price of eggs more than 90 percent. This is borne out by the document (attached ) comparing egg prices in California (which established a cage density for layers at 116 square inches in implementing its egg production guidelines on January 1, 2015). This data was reported by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Livestock, Poultry & Grain Market News National Shell Egg Index Price Report (National prices FOB and California delivered). The daily spreads after California enacted their new law were 90 percent higher than the rest of the nation.
Conclusions. For the reasons established cage-free chickens will not improve the welfare of the chicken, small backyard flocks are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella, and the increased cost to the consumer, the National Association of Egg Farmers is opposed to H6023 and its companion bill in the Senate.