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.