USA Today Asks National Egg Farmers the Reasons for Opposing Prop 12

On September 28th National Egg Farmers submitted the following reasons for why the nation's egg farmers are opposed to the new ballot initiative in California, Prop 12, that will force all eggs sold in the state to be cage-free.


Why Prop 12 will be less HUMANE?

The “pecking order” is the term applied to chickens establishing dominance.  Where the population size is limited to less than a dozen birds reduces the harm from pecking as opposed to the thousands of chickens pecking each other in cage-free systems. It has lead to higher mortality among cage-free chickens.  Forcing chickens into production systems that increases mortality is less humane.


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 approximately 140 outbreaks in backyard (cage- flocks).  Once discovered, these chickens have to be destroyed.  This is not occurring in conventional farming methods using cages.


Infectious Coryza Disease. The August 2018 Georgia Poultry Laboratory “The Chick Papers” reported “In more recent history, a new threat has made itself known. Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND), formerly known as Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), has spread through backyard flocks of California posing a threat to commercial production there.

Now there is Infectious Coryza (IC). To prevent exposure to IC, avoid suspected flocks and maintain your biosecurity procedures, especially if small flock operations are in your vicinity.” “Small flock operations are typically cage-free.

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.


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.


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.


COST –After Prop 2 and the subsequent California law went into effect, the average price of eggs sold in California was 90% higher than the rest of the nation.  This is substantiated by the US Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Marketing Service egg price reporting.


Proposition 12 will remove consumer choice.  The Animal Ag Alliance partnered with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation to study consumer beliefs and willingness-to-pay for specific attributes in cage-free eggs and slow-growth boilers. Each survey had more than 2,000 respondents who made choices between products that vary in price, production practices, labeling claims, packaging, product color and appearance.


Key Findings:

•           Overall, consumers report price, safety and taste as the most important factors they consider when purchasing eggs.

•           There is some potential for greater market share for cage-free eggs than what currently exists, but not a majority market share.

•           More than half of egg shoppers are price sensitive showing little willingness-to-pay more for cage-free.

•           Removing the option to buy affordable, conventionally-produced eggs significantly increases the share of consumers not buying eggs altogether.