National Egg Farmers Offers Rebuttal to LA Times Editorial Opposing Farm Bill Amendment

The Los Angeles Times featured an editorial on Sunday, July 8 entitled "The farm bill doesn't need an amendment that helps let chickens be treated cruelly".  http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-king-amendment-farm-bill-20180707-story.htm  This is in reference to Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his amendment in the Farm Bill that passed the House of Representatives whereby he maintains Congress has the authority to regulate commerce between the states and not the states themselves.  Of course this is a challenge to the California egg law and the new voter intiative that will appear on the November ballot calling for total cage-free eggs to be sold in the state. National Egg Farmers offered a rebuttal explaining that egg farmers nationwide have changed their egg production practices from cage-free to cages to improve the health of the chicken and to provide a quality product for consumers. Here is the proof behind our assertions:

HUMANE- The “pecking order” is the term applied to chickens establishing dominance.  It has lead to higher mortality among cage-free chickens.  Cage-free systems have resulted in more broken breast bones as reported by Dr. Maja Makagon at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science. Forcing chickens into production systems that increases bone breakage is inhumane. Dr. Ivan Alvarado, DVM with Merck Global Business reported at a poultry conference on the external parasites in cage-free farms. 83% of European cage-free egg farms are already infested with poultry red mites. All 27 member nations in the EU are about 40% cage-free compared to 16% in the U.S.. The approved medication in Europe for this parasite is not approved in the U.S.  Subjecting poultry to parasites without the benefit of approved medication is inhumane. Currently, California is struggling with a major poultry disease (Virulent Newcastle Disease) with 39 outbreaks in backyard (free-range flocks).  Once discovered, these chickens have to be destroyed.  This is not occurring in conventional farming methods using cages. Forcing chickens into production systems where they contract poultry diseases is inhumane.

FOOD SAFETY-The US Animal Health Association October 17, 2017 Report stated: “Ascarids (round worms) are increasingly being found in cage-free operations with the concern being the possibility of a consumer finding an egg with a roundworm contained inside. Most all cage-free egg producers have had such an occurrence.” Chickens pick up roundworms when they come into contact with infected feces on the ground. How will readers of the LA Times react to finding round worms in their eggs? In the Journal Food Control published a study June 17, 2014 entitled "Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Housing Systems"  The conclusions show why cages became the preferred method of producing safer eggs. How will readers of the LA Times react when they learn you opted for free-range and increased the likelihood of contracting a pathogen? Penn State researchers in September 2016 published their research findings that eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis as eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks of caged layers. How will your readers react when they find out?

It is for these reasons National Egg Farmers is urging the LA Times to make known why farmers support the King amendment in the Farm Bill by publishing this opinion.