Klippen Defends Caged Layers Before House Committee

Klippen Defends Caged Layers Before House Committee

On April 6th, Ken Klippen testified before the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in Providence, Rhode Island against H6023 mandating cage-free by 2022.  Klippen joined the sole egg farmer in the State (name withheld due to confidentiality agreement) who has struggled with these efforts by animal activists for the past several years.  See website for Klippen's testimony.




The egg farmer explained the bill, if passed, would put him out of business. He also noted that cage-free eggs were not selling well, effectively squelching one activist’s survey claiming consumer preference for cage-free eggs. Dianne Sullivan from Massachusetts also testified in opposition. Readers of this newsletter recall Sullivan worked with a coalition of farm groups in Massachusetts including NAEF in trying to overturn that State’s ballot initiative last November. Sullivan cited the impact of her State, Massachusetts, on those impoverished consumers from the prices of eggs escalating as a result of a cage-free mandate. She also unleashed a barrage of verbal attacks against HSUS for their misleading donation solicitation tactics and the millions of dollars they are hoarding in offshore pension accounts for the HSUS staff instead of supporting local pet shelters with the donations as the ads infer.


The hearing lasted about 4 hours, starting at 4:40 pm and had a packed room of animal activists and just a few of us opposing. The HSUS and ASPCA were present in force and willing to testify enthusiastically in support, but only using their "feelings" about caged layers.  One tried to use her experience of flying to Japan in the middle seat on an airplane and equated that with chickens in cages.  The egg farmer is proactive and has invited legislators to his farm. One legislator spoke out favorably about what he saw occurring on the farm. The State Veterinarian Scott Marshall also spoke out in opposition to the bill saying that it would not improve the welfare of the chicken. The HSUS did cite "research saying cage free will only increase the price by a few cents per egg."  Klippen refuted those claims by presenting data from California's experience and their price differential for the entire 2016 at 90% higher prices than the rest of the country after California’s 116 square inch per chicken law went into effect.  HSUS spoke of offering the egg farmer a financial grant of $90,000 to help him transition to cage-free.  Some of the House Members were encouraged by this offer.  Klippen told the committee (and HSUS) that $90,000 would help transition only 2,200 chickens whereas the egg farmer in the State would need $1.6 million for his current flock since the average cost to transition is $40 per bird.  HSUS cited food safety concerns associated with large scale egg farmers (in reference to the 2010 egg recall).  Klippen refuted that claim by citing the Penn State research released in September 2016 where they tested more than 6,000 eggs from 200 different selling points and concluded that backyard chickens were more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella.  In the end, some House Members announced they still prefer cage-free.  Klippen asked that many food companies are planning to transition to cage-free, so why is the legislation necessary?  He objected to removing consumer choice by mandating one style of production system. Klippen added that California had the voters decide on their ballot initiative (Prop 2 in 2008), but in Rhode Island, if consumers asked why egg prices were increasing (assuming the bill passed), he would remind them their legislators voted in this cage-free mandate.


Cage-Free Egg Production Facing More Challenges

Cage-Free Egg Production Facing More Challenges



Below are two news updates concerning cage-free production practices.  One is a new video an egg farm being challenged on the humaneness of cage-free, and the other is a short recap of a paper presented at the Egg Industry Forum last week noting the problems with perches damaging the keel bone of layers.  Egg farmers searching for compromises with the animal rights community are again handed disappointments while those of us continuing to support conventional cages are being vindicated for opposing any compromise.


A New Video Claiming Inhumane Conditions at Egg Farm


The animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) who has challenged the humaneness of cage-free egg production, has circulated a video that challenges the humane conditions of cage-free layers at a Morning Fresh Farms facility in Platteville, CO.  They produce eggs to be sold at Sprouts Farmers Markets (headquarters in Phoenix), known for their organic and natural products.

The video is claimed to have been filmed at the farm location in Platteville, Colorado, over the course of nine months, according to a Phoenix Business Journal report.

Sprouts issued a statement in response to the video which states in part "Animal welfare is of utmost importance to Sprouts. All of our egg suppliers are required to meet or exceed USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services Standards, and any cage-free supplier must also meet or exceed animal welfare standards such as Certified Humane certification criteria outlined by Humane Farm Animal Care, among other nationally recognized programs. The Morning Fresh Farms’ Platteville, Colo. farm supplies Certified Humane cage-free eggs under the brand names Rocky Mountain Eggs and Egg-Land’s Best only to our Colorado and New Mexico stores."


Perches for Layers Leads to Bone Damage

A new research study shows the majority of keel bone damage originates from collisions with perches inside the layer house. Dr. Maja Makagon, assistant professor of applied animal behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, discussed the results of a study conducted to analyze keel bone damage in a layer environment. Makagon, who spoke on April 19 at the Egg Industry Center Egg Industry Issues Forum in Columbus, Ohio, said the study utilized accelerometers and 3D imaging technology to study the force of the collisions and measure their effects on the keel bone.

The keel is an extension of the sternum that provides an anchor for the bird’s wing muscles and provides leverage for flight. As laying hens are being removed from a conventional cage environment, Makagon said, keel integrity is increasingly seen as an indicator of animal welfare. Damaged keels are associated with increased mortality, reduced egg production and egg quality, and keel damage is likely associated with pain for the animal.


Written Testimony Submitted to House Committee Supporting Caged Layers

Written Testimony Submitted to House Committee Supporting Caged Layers

Testimony by Ken Klippen

President of the National Association of Egg Farmers

Before the Rhode Island House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources

House Bill 6023



 Thursday, April 6, 2017





Good evening. My name is Ken Klippen, President of the National Association of Egg Farmers, a nationwide association representing approximately 200 farmers producing 14 billion eggs (more than 1 billion dozen) from approximately 50 million laying chickens. I have both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Poultry Science from Michigan State University and have spent more than 40 years in the poultry industry both in production as well as association management nationally and internationally.


Thank you for the opportunity today to testify on H6023 pertaining to animal husbandry and the proposed provisions for unlawful confinement of a covered animal outlined in H6023. As 4-1.1-1. Definitions of the act related to several farm animals, my comments will address only subsection (3) “Egg-laying hen”.


We Oppose H6023. We are opposed to H6023 because the specifications for the size of the enclosure do not contribute to the welfare of the individual chicken. Chickens establish a pecking order among a population of birds. Farmers started putting chickens into confined spaces such as conventional cages to minimize the stress from pecking. Those 6-8 birds in a cage have established which chicken is dominant and which is at the lower end of the pecking order. Imagine the stress of those lower on a pecking order when loose on the ground among thousands of chickens. The mortality (a clear indication of stress) in cage-free systems is twice that of conventional cages resulting from the pecking from the more dominant chickens.


H6023 Clause (7) states: "Fully extending the animal's limbs" means fully extending all limbs without touching the side of an enclosure. In the case of egg-laying hens, "fully extending the animal’s limbs" means fully spreading both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens and having access to the amount of usable floor space per hen that complies with the 2016 Edition of the United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks "Guidelines for Cage-Free Egg Production." Will chickens that touch another chicken in a cage-free environment be in violation of this proposed law? The expression “birds of a feather, flock together” include chickens and those that are in a cage-free environment will mingle among other chickens touching one another.


Not Opposed to Voluntary Standards, But H6023 Will Enforce Mandatory Standards. NAEF does not oppose the United Egg Producers animal husbandry guidelines for cage-free egg production as they are voluntary and provide a standard for those farmers who wish to market eggs as cage-free. But H6023 is mandating that all egg produced and sold in the state must conform to those standards, taking away the individual right of the farmer and those of consumers who want a high quality, lower priced egg to purchase.


Once again NAEF is not opposed to producing cage-free eggs, but we are opposed to the false premise that cage-free eggs are more humane. 


Investigating animal welfare in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA) are the two agencies that respond to citizen complaints about the welfare of livestock in the state.


Combined, the two agencies conducted approximately 65 investigations in 2016 related to livestock welfare annually which includes investigating the physical condition of animals (condition related to animal weight, lameness, and hoof care), followed by access to sufficient feed and water and access to suitable shelter. Of the complaints that these agencies receive, the majority (approximately 90%) are unfounded, stated the RIDEM.


Of those complaints that are with merit (about 6 annually, according to RIDEM), most of the situations are not due to criminal neglect, but rather ignorance or complacency within the food animal sectors.


Fortunately for Rhode Island, the one farmer producing shell eggs complies with the known animal care standards as adopted by NAEF (which provides 40 scientific references on poultry production) including proper housing, feed and water, air quality and environmental considerations for both the chickens and the workers working in the farm facilities.


What Do Poultry Scientists Claim as Acceptable Space Allowance? The following peer-reviewed scientific studies conclude that a minimum of 67 square inches per layer producing white-shelled eggs (76 square inches per layer producing brown-shelled eggs as these varieties of chickens are larger in size) will allow each individual chicken to stand upright in the cage, lie down, turn around and spread its wings while also having direct access to feed and water when desired. The following scientific references relate to space allowances for chickens producing eggs:


Scientific References:

  1. Adams, A.W. and M.E. Jackson, 1970. Effect of cage size and bird density on performance of six commercial strains of layers. Poultry Sci. 49:1712-1719.
  2. Anderson, K.E. and A.W. Adams, 1992. Effects of rearing density and feeder and waterer spaces on the productivity and fearful behavior of layers. Poultry Sci. 71:53-58.
  3. Anderson, K.E., A.W. Adams, and J.V. Craig, 1989. Behavioral adaptation of floor-reared White Leghorn pullets to different cage densities cage shapes during the initial settling-in period. Poultry Sci. 68:70-78.
  4. Anderson, K.E. 2001. Welfare implications of cage density, population, and feeder space. 2001 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention, Touchstone Energy Place at River Center, St. Paul, Minnesota March 14-15, 2001. Pp. 164-170.
  5. Anderson, K.E., G.S. Davis, P. Jenkins, and A.S. Carroll. 2004. Effects of bird age, density, and molt on behavioral profiles of two commercial layer strains in cages. Poultry Sci. 83:15-23
  6. Al-Rawi, B. and J.V. Craig, 1975. Agonistic behavior of caged chickens related to group size and area per bird.       Applied Animal Ethology 2:69-80


Food Safety Concerns. 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:



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.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that shell-egg producers from farms with 3,000 or more chickens be in compliance with the agency’s Final Egg Rule, which is aimed at restricting the growth of pathogens.


Federal regulations for these larger flocks require placement of Salmonella-“clean” chicks, intensive rodent control, cleaning and disinfecting between flocks, environmental monitoring of pullet and layer houses, continuous testing of eggs from any Salmonella-positive houses, and diverting eggs from Salmonella-positive houses for pasteurization.   However, small flocks with fewer than 3,000 laying hens are currently exempt from the rule. Eggs from these producers often are marketed via direct retail to restaurants, health food stores and farmers markets, or sold at on-farm roadside stands.


The research highlights the potential risk posed by the consumption of eggs produced by backyard and small layer flocks. And, analysis of the Salmonella enteritidis present in the eggs from small flocks shows they are the same types commonly reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from human foodborne outbreaks.


The Cost Benefit Analysis of H6023 shows enactment will also be harmful to consumers. If the one Rhode Island farmer producing eggs in conventional cages today is mandated to establish cage density for layers at 144 square inches, the costs would increase more than 90 percent. This is borne out by the document (included) 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) as 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 before California enacted their new law mandating 116 square inches, the price differential between the state and the rest of the nation was greater. In 2015 the differential was 49 percent higher and in 2016 that price differential has skyrocketed to 90 percent higher.

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service 2012 report: Summary of RI animal agriculture: There are 1,243 total farms in the state of Rhode Island which 521 are pasture raised (raise livestock).


Poultry is a category of livestock that is better broken down into subcategories. 327 farms raised egg laying hens with 300 of them raising fewer than 400 birds.


Only 1 farmer raised more than 10,000 birds. 49 farmers raised 13,402 broiler type chickens, 24 farmers raised an undetermined number of turkeys, and 52 farmers raised 450 ducks. Other categories are primarily exhibitors or poultry fanciers who raise smaller numbers of birds.  


In effect, H6023 is targeting the one Rhode Island egg farmer and those egg farmers in nearby states producing eggs in conventional cages who provide eggs for the 1 million consumers in the state.


Conclusions. For the reasons established that 144 square inches per chicken 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 proposed for Rhode Island.



Once again, thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I am prepared to answer any questions at this time.


Attachment (California Prices 90 percent higher)

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