National Association of Egg Farmers Sends Support for WSJ Op-Ed

We fully support the Op-Ed by Will Coggin in the March 26th edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled “California Flies the Constitutional Coop.” Mr. Coggin’s Op-Ed correctly noted that California is assuming the role of determining the commerce of eggs which is a violation of the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 granting the U.S. Congress the power to regulate commerce between the States.  California Title 3 Section 1350 of the CA Code of Regulations requires out-of-state egg farmers selling eggs in California to implement CA’s Salmonella  reduction which goes beyond the federal guidelines under FDA’s food safety standards for eggs (Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 118 [21 CFR Part 118], “Production, Storage, and Transportation of Shell Eggs).  This action to regulate commerce is why 5 other states have joined the initiative behind Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster’s lawsuit against the California Attorney General along with members of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Those states are Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Alabama. 


California has also claimed in other newspapers that food safety, quality, and welfare were reasons for supporting this regulation.  Consider the following evidence in rebuttal.


As it relates to food safety, Dr. R.K. Gast at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southeast Regional Laboratory in Athens, GA along with 3 other scientists recently published their findings that there is no significant differences (P > 0.05) in the frequency of egg contamination  by Salmonella in chickens housed in conventional cages as compared to enriched cages, the ones promoted by California in their regulation. (Poultry Science 2014 Mar;93(3):728-33. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03641).


California claimed better quality eggs.  However, the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply is reporting on their website that their research showed that egg quality was not impacted by hen housing systems ( 


California claimed better welfare with their enriched cages as compared to conventional cages.  This too has been shown to be faulty. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2010 released a report on the welfare implications of various kinds of housing. ( The report concluded consumers need to balance the hen’s freedom against exposure to potential hazards such as disease vectors and the cannibalism caused by pecking. Certainly cannibalism and pecking are welfare issues, and in conventional cages where the number of chickens is minimized, these concerns are also reduced compared to other systems.


Dr. Kenneth Anderson, NC State University, presented his research findings to delegates at the 2010 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention March 16-18, 2010 where he noted that chickens reared in conventional cages (310 sq. cm/bird) had significantly greater numbers of Grade A eggs, significantly greater numbers of total eggs produced, and significantly better feed conversion rates (meaning a lower carbon footprint), and a better immune response (meaning better able to resist disease).  Certainly these are indicators of a healthier chicken and thus better welfare.


We appreciate that the readers of the Wall Street Journal can understand that California’s egg regulations are, in addition to being unconstitutional, also not science-based, but instead just more political science.


National Association of Egg Farmers Urge Attorneys General to Support MO Lawsuit Against California Egg Bill

The National Association of Egg Farmers has been involved in encouraging Attorneys General from a number of states in support of the MO AG’s lawsuit against the California egg law, and we are pleased to note that 5 states have joined in; Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R);  Nebraska AG John Bruning (R); Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt (R); Kentucky AG Jack Conway (D) and Alabama AG Luther Strange (R).  But the effort continues.  While NAEF has been encouraging Minnesota’s AG Lori Swanson to file an amicus brief, a group of egg farmers have recently met with Minnesota’s Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson to solicit his support in encouraging the Minnesota AG Lori Swanson (D).  In addition, NAEF has reached out to Texas AG Greg Abbott (R); South Dakota AG Marty Jackley (R); Utah AG Sean Reyes (R); Montana AG Tim Fox; (D) and Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden (R).


California has passed a law on eggs sold in the state claiming rights to set up production standards to block agricultural products competing with their state produce.  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California arguing that a California farming law violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution and encroaches on Missouri sovereignty. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that prohibits California farmers from employing a number of agricultural production methods currently in widespread use throughout the country. Beginning in 2015, for example, California egg producers are required to comply with new regulations concerning the size of the enclosures housing egg-laying hens.  Even before the initiative passed, California farmers, economists, and legislators expressed concern that Proposition 2 would put their state's egg producers at a competitive disadvantage by increasing the cost of egg production within California. To protect that state's farmers from out-of-state competition, in 2010 the California State Assembly passed new legislation (AB1437) requiring egg producers in other states to comply with Proposition 2 themselves in order to continue selling their eggs in California. The MO AG is asking the federal court to rule that California's legislation violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The Commerce Clause prohibits any state from enacting legislation that regulates conduct wholly outside its borders, protects its own citizens from out-of-state competition, or places undue burdens on interstate commerce.  We are hopeful you would consider filing an amicus brief in support of the MO lawsuit.


National Association of Egg Farmers Defend Caged Layers Before State Legislative Committee

Recently, National Association of Egg Farmers spent a day defending conventional cage systems before a committee assigned by the state legislature (name withheld) to consider a proposal by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in a bill to ban all caged layers in the state. 

The egg farmer, who is a member of NAEF, asked for support and to present the science behind conventional caged systems.  While the committee listened and watched the NAEF power point presentation, also in attendance were two members of ASPCA along with Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary, formerly with PETA.  You may recall that Bruce Friedrich wrote the Op-Ed article in this week’s LA Times that NAEF offered the rebuttal relating to California’s Prop 2 and the Missouri Attorney General’s lawsuit to the California egg law. 

The proposal by ASPCA, now a bill, calls for the prohibition of caged layers and the implementation of the UEP cage-free guidelines of 1-1.5 sq. ft of floor space per chicken. 

In the ASPCA presentation, they cited the UEP scientific committee recommendations along with the comments of researchers Dr. Bernard Rollin at Colorado State University and Dr. Ian Duncan at the University of Guelph.  Both scientists addressed the inability of chickens to perform particular behaviors such as perching and dust bathing, even stretching their limbs.  ASPCA hammered on the osteoporosis in spent hens as demonstrating the poor treatment given to them in caged facilities.  NAEF started the power point with quotations by animal activists including Bruce Friedrich showing their intentions are to eliminate meat, milk and eggs from consumers diets. 

NAEF countered ASPCA with more current research published at the time of the California egg law showing caged layers produced more eggs, more grade A eggs, larger eggs, better feed conversion, higher antibody levels to protect against diseases, and lower mortality levels, all indicators of better health and welfare.  “Certainly mortality should be a determining factor for welfare, and if the mortality is lower in conventional cages it signals better conditions for the layers” stated NAEF.   

Dr. Peter Holt, USDA/ARS Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit in Athens, GA was also cited by NAEF showing concern for greater microbial contamination in systems other than the conventional cage systems.  When the question arose if this applied to the enhanced colony cage, NAEF stated the exposure of eggs to manure in the colony cage system when they are laid in the scratch areas or nest boxes contaminated with fecal matter.  Furthermore, NAEF cited the initial study results from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply showing an increased incidence of wing and leg fractures in the enhanced colony cage.  When asked how this could happen, NAEF suggested that the greater space meant more opportunity for piling of the chickens and perhaps running into the perches.  This is not the case in conventional cage systems.  NAEF spelled out the original 5 Freedoms in the Brambel Report dating back decades and how the modern cage system did respond to the welfare considerations of that welfare report.  NAEF also outlined the experience in the European Union with the implementation of their enhanced colony cage law on January 1, 2012 with the egg shortages and spikes in egg prices. 

The debate then moved onto the lawsuit filed by the Missouri Attorney General against the California egg law.  While the activists cited the rulings coming from California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the precedence they set, NAEF centered its position on the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 which clearly states Congress has the authority to regulate commerce among the states and that Article X grants states’ rights not already delegated to the United States by the Constitution.  In other words, the Constitution addressed the commerce clause in the first article and states’ rights afterwards.

After 2 hours, the committee adjourned without making a decision on the ASPCA recommendations and asked for written statements from NAEF and ASPCA on the science they provided.  NAEF provided the documents immediately.

There are two takeaways from this experience; 1) National Association of Egg Farmers must be willing to speak up in defense of their production systems or else committees such as this will abide by the agenda of the animal activists, and 2) NAEF demonstrated an effective voice in defending caged layer systems, suggesting it’s better to fight for your rights than to compromise with activists that want to put you out of business altogether. 

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