National Association of Egg Farmers Urge Attorneys General to Support MO Lawsuit Against California Egg Bill

The National Association of Egg Farmers has been involved in encouraging Attorneys General from a number of states in support of the MO AG’s lawsuit against the California egg law, and we are pleased to note that 5 states have joined in; Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R);  Nebraska AG John Bruning (R); Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt (R); Kentucky AG Jack Conway (D) and Alabama AG Luther Strange (R).  But the effort continues.  While NAEF has been encouraging Minnesota’s AG Lori Swanson to file an amicus brief, a group of egg farmers have recently met with Minnesota’s Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson to solicit his support in encouraging the Minnesota AG Lori Swanson (D).  In addition, NAEF has reached out to Texas AG Greg Abbott (R); South Dakota AG Marty Jackley (R); Utah AG Sean Reyes (R); Montana AG Tim Fox; (D) and Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden (R).


California has passed a law on eggs sold in the state claiming rights to set up production standards to block agricultural products competing with their state produce.  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California arguing that a California farming law violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution and encroaches on Missouri sovereignty. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that prohibits California farmers from employing a number of agricultural production methods currently in widespread use throughout the country. Beginning in 2015, for example, California egg producers are required to comply with new regulations concerning the size of the enclosures housing egg-laying hens.  Even before the initiative passed, California farmers, economists, and legislators expressed concern that Proposition 2 would put their state's egg producers at a competitive disadvantage by increasing the cost of egg production within California. To protect that state's farmers from out-of-state competition, in 2010 the California State Assembly passed new legislation (AB1437) requiring egg producers in other states to comply with Proposition 2 themselves in order to continue selling their eggs in California. The MO AG is asking the federal court to rule that California's legislation violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The Commerce Clause prohibits any state from enacting legislation that regulates conduct wholly outside its borders, protects its own citizens from out-of-state competition, or places undue burdens on interstate commerce.  We are hopeful you would consider filing an amicus brief in support of the MO lawsuit.


National Association of Egg Farmers Defend Caged Layers Before State Legislative Committee

Recently, National Association of Egg Farmers spent a day defending conventional cage systems before a committee assigned by the state legislature (name withheld) to consider a proposal by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in a bill to ban all caged layers in the state. 

The egg farmer, who is a member of NAEF, asked for support and to present the science behind conventional caged systems.  While the committee listened and watched the NAEF power point presentation, also in attendance were two members of ASPCA along with Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary, formerly with PETA.  You may recall that Bruce Friedrich wrote the Op-Ed article in this week’s LA Times that NAEF offered the rebuttal relating to California’s Prop 2 and the Missouri Attorney General’s lawsuit to the California egg law. 

The proposal by ASPCA, now a bill, calls for the prohibition of caged layers and the implementation of the UEP cage-free guidelines of 1-1.5 sq. ft of floor space per chicken. 

In the ASPCA presentation, they cited the UEP scientific committee recommendations along with the comments of researchers Dr. Bernard Rollin at Colorado State University and Dr. Ian Duncan at the University of Guelph.  Both scientists addressed the inability of chickens to perform particular behaviors such as perching and dust bathing, even stretching their limbs.  ASPCA hammered on the osteoporosis in spent hens as demonstrating the poor treatment given to them in caged facilities.  NAEF started the power point with quotations by animal activists including Bruce Friedrich showing their intentions are to eliminate meat, milk and eggs from consumers diets. 

NAEF countered ASPCA with more current research published at the time of the California egg law showing caged layers produced more eggs, more grade A eggs, larger eggs, better feed conversion, higher antibody levels to protect against diseases, and lower mortality levels, all indicators of better health and welfare.  “Certainly mortality should be a determining factor for welfare, and if the mortality is lower in conventional cages it signals better conditions for the layers” stated NAEF.   

Dr. Peter Holt, USDA/ARS Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit in Athens, GA was also cited by NAEF showing concern for greater microbial contamination in systems other than the conventional cage systems.  When the question arose if this applied to the enhanced colony cage, NAEF stated the exposure of eggs to manure in the colony cage system when they are laid in the scratch areas or nest boxes contaminated with fecal matter.  Furthermore, NAEF cited the initial study results from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply showing an increased incidence of wing and leg fractures in the enhanced colony cage.  When asked how this could happen, NAEF suggested that the greater space meant more opportunity for piling of the chickens and perhaps running into the perches.  This is not the case in conventional cage systems.  NAEF spelled out the original 5 Freedoms in the Brambel Report dating back decades and how the modern cage system did respond to the welfare considerations of that welfare report.  NAEF also outlined the experience in the European Union with the implementation of their enhanced colony cage law on January 1, 2012 with the egg shortages and spikes in egg prices. 

The debate then moved onto the lawsuit filed by the Missouri Attorney General against the California egg law.  While the activists cited the rulings coming from California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the precedence they set, NAEF centered its position on the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 which clearly states Congress has the authority to regulate commerce among the states and that Article X grants states’ rights not already delegated to the United States by the Constitution.  In other words, the Constitution addressed the commerce clause in the first article and states’ rights afterwards.

After 2 hours, the committee adjourned without making a decision on the ASPCA recommendations and asked for written statements from NAEF and ASPCA on the science they provided.  NAEF provided the documents immediately.

There are two takeaways from this experience; 1) National Association of Egg Farmers must be willing to speak up in defense of their production systems or else committees such as this will abide by the agenda of the animal activists, and 2) NAEF demonstrated an effective voice in defending caged layer systems, suggesting it’s better to fight for your rights than to compromise with activists that want to put you out of business altogether. 


National Association of Egg Farmers Offer Rebuttal in LA Times Article

This is in response to the Op-Ed February 10, 2014 in the LA Times by Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary, “Which Came First, Healthier Chickens or Cheaper Eggs?”  His explanations of today’s modern chicken farm are inaccurate, and his citations from the European Union’s new law provide only part of the story.  The readers of the LA Times deserve better than only part of the story.

It’s true that the Californians voted on November 4, 2008 in support of Proposition 2 that requires chickens producing eggs be able to stand up, lie down, turn around, and fully extend their limbs with touching another chicken or the side of their enclosure.  It was followed by California law AB 1437 on July 6, 2010 requiring all eggs sold in California abide by state law.  Just reading Mr. Friedrich’s op-ed may sound like a good thing to consumers, but today’s modern chicken producing farm allows their chickens to stand up, lie down, turn around, and fully extend their limbs in their modern, cage systems.  The same year that California’s Governor signed AB 1437 into law, Dr. Kenneth Anderson, NC State, published his research findings showing the modern, caged chickens are in healthier conditions as evidenced by 1) a greater number of eggs produced, 2) larger eggs, 3) more grade A eggs, 4) better feed conversion rates, 5) significantly lower mortality rates compared to chickens taken out of cages, 6) higher antibody levels protecting the chickens from poultry-related diseases. The California egg farmers with colony cages extol their virtues in hopes of convincing other egg farmers to make the investments up to $40 per chicken for the new cages, but the initial research from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group of poultry scientists, noted these cages resulted in more leg and wing breakages.  Anyone observing these new colony cages can see why.  The birds race through the cage and run into the perches and injury themselves. Certainly Mr. Friedrich, professing a reverence for animal welfare, would not intentionally want to see more chickens with broken wings or broken legs. 

As to the European Union experience, that new law went into effect January 1, 2012 (Council Directive 1999/74/ED).  When this new law went into effect, European stores reported shortages of eggs up to 20% as a result of the new law with prices increasing a whopping 44%.

Dr. Atoussa Mazaheri, Company Veterinarian with Lohmann Tierzucht in Cuxhaven, Germany reported that the German egg farmers who installed the enriched colony cages in that country regretted it. Dr. Mazaheri stated publicly the animal rights activists were not satisfied and are pressing the retailers to go cage-free altogether. Those “good intentions” by the German Bungestag, reported Dr. Mazaheri, yielded more problems with the re-emergence of poultry diseases that had been previously eradicated since 1998. These included Erysipelas showing a drop in egg production upwards of 15% and mortality of 30%; Blackhead which can only be cured with penicillin, but not allowed in poultry in Germany; and Pox (Fowl Pox) which has a mortality ranging between 10-50%.  Certainly Mr. Friedrich would not want to see an increase in poultry diseases.

The same year of the California egg law, Dr. Impke de Boer, Wageningen University in Holland presented her research on greenhouse gas emissions at an international forum with the modern, conventional cage system at the lowest of any animal.  The chickens in modern systems produced 2.2 kg of carbon equivalent per kilo of eggs, 25% less than other forms of egg production.  

Lastly, Mr. Friedrich, should perhaps re-read his copy of the U.S. Constitution concerning his claims against the lawsuit filed by the Missouri Attorney General.  Article 1, Section 8, clause 3 of that founding document clearly states the power to regulate commerce among the states lies with the Congress.  Some in California claim their state’s rights under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, however that amendment begins by stating “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution…”  In other words, claiming state rights cannot supercede what is already enumerated in Article 1.

Californians deserve to hear both sides of the debate concerning how eggs are produced and I appreciate the privilege to provide the other side.

Ken Klippen, with two degrees in Poultry Science and more than 30 years in the egg industry, is representing National Association of Egg Farmers.


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