Apr12

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:

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.

 

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)