Wasted tax dollars is upsetting to everyone and should alert Massachusetts voters when they go to the polls on November 8th. Question 3 on the ballot will increase your food dollars $45 per person without the benefits hoped for. While cage-free egg farming is claimed by many as the future, the facts show it is a reverting to the past. This is the law of unintended consequences where voters are encouraged to “feel” with the wording of the ballot initiative instead of examining the facts.
More than five decades ago, egg farming transitioned to cages to:
1) Improve the lives of the chickens (by reduced death in a flock of chickens in half)
2) Improve the quality of eggs (by removing the likelihood of the eggs coming in contact with manure)
3) Improved the working conditions of the farmer (less dust from the chickens scratching in the shavings).
4) A vote in favor of Question 3 will definitely lead to $14 more per person for eggs in Massachusetts as substantiated by Dr. Harry M. Kaiser, Cornell University in 2016 and twice as much as eggs when purchasing pork as reported Dr. Jason Lusk, Oklahoma State University in 2014. Massachusetts – are you ready to increase your food budget by $45 per person?
FACT: California passed an identical ballot initiative with the proponents saying the impact on egg prices would be just pennies. California consumers are paying 90% more for a dozen eggs than the rest of the nation. That’s hardly pennies a dozen.
FACT: The most recent investigation into the best production systems by scientists in the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply showed the facts do not support cage-free egg production as the ideal model for the egg-producing chicken. McDonald's was one of a list of contributors to this investigation. Those scientists reported to McDonald's and others that cage-free systems lead to more death loss among chicken due to their establishing a pecking order.
FACT: Penn State researchers recently published last month the results of a 6-month study testing 6,000 eggs and concluded backyard flocks of cage-free were more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella. Farmers today know how to produce a safe and wholesome egg while caring for the chickens.
FACT: Those food companies including McDonald’s will learn that cage-free is not the consumers' choice. Check out the stores selling both types of eggs today and find which ones the consumers are buying.
The extended future of egg production will be right back to chickens in cages after the food companies learn the lessons that farmers learned five decades ago. We hope the Massachusetts voters don’t make the same mistake as California voters did and learn the hard way with skyrocketing egg prices.
Ken Klippen, National Association of Egg Farmers