National Egg Farmers Testify Before Rhode Island Legislators on Cage-Free Chickens Bill

Rhode Island House Environment and Natural Resources Committee

Consideration of H 7456 Relating to Animals and Animal Husbandry –Unlawful Confinement of a Covered Animal (Egg Laying Chickens)

Testimony by Ken Klippen, President, National Association of Egg Farmers

April 5, 2018


Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening in opposing H 7456 for two reasons; food safety and animal welfare. While the bill addresses unlawful confinement, it also mandates that chickens producing eggs have floor space consistent with the 2016 United Egg Producers Guidelines for Cage-Free Production.




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.” Below is a picture showing round worms in the internal organ of an egg laying chicken as well as in an egg itself. 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 eggs. "Battery caged hens (conventional cages) are standing on wire slats that allow feces to fall to a manure collection system beneath the hens.  Conversely, free-range hens (cage-free) laid their eggs in nest boxes on shavings and the eggs remained in contact with hens, shavings and fecal material until they are collected.  The longer contact time with free-range hens, shavings and feces would explain the higher enterobacteriaceae counts (pathogenic bacteria) on free-range eggs as compared to battery caged 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.


Cage-free increases the stress on chickens due to the establishment of a “pecking order” among the chickens.  This behavior is to determine the social standing of the individual hens through “pecking” each other.  The individual chicken lower in the social order is pecked the most.  When chickens are housed in conventional cages with 6 chickens, the establishment of this pecking order is minimized compared to thousands of chickens in a cage-free environment. The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a two-year study of different production systems, did not conclude that cage-free was the optimum system, but instead noted the mortality is nearly double that of caged systems.

The type of system proposed in the legislation will lead to more broken breast bones. Keel (breast) bone breakage reported highest in the aviary (cage-free) system over conventional cages.  A clear indication that cage-free systems are not more humane than conventional cages. Dr. Maja Makagon, Assistant Professor of Applied Animal Behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, reported the increased bone breakage from collisions with perches in cage-free systems.


Dr. Ivan Alvarado, DVM with Merck Global Business delivered an interesting presentation at the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 14, 2018 discussing external parasites in cage-free farms. 83% of European cage-free egg farms are already infested with poultry red mites. This harmful mite is extremely costly to the poultry industry with annual European industry losses at EUR360 million (US$446.54 million). Red mites are not a problem in conventional cages. All 27 member nations in the EU are about 40% cage-free compared to 16% in the U.S. Dr. Alvarado said an effective drug for Red Mites is Fluranaler and is in use in the EU. It has not yet received approval in the U.S. Subjecting poultry to parasites without the benefit of approved medication is inhumane.

It is for these reasons we are opposed to H 7456 which mandates all eggs sold come from these cage-free systems of production.

Thank you.



Those Opposing and Those in Favor of RI Cage-Free Bill

  1. Opposing Testimony April 5th before RI Legislators on Cage-Free Bill

On April 5th in Providence, Rhode Island, there were several supporters joining the sole egg farmer, Eli Berkowitz, Little Rhody Farms, Foster, RI in testifying before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee considering the cage-free egg bill H7456 . The others included Will Coggin with HumaneWatch, Ken Klippen with the National Egg Farmers, Dianne Sullivan from Massachusetts who works with the National Pork Producers Council. (Sullivan led the effort that National Egg Farmers joined in opposing the Massachusetts ballot), and Dr. Scott Marshall, RI State Veterinarian. Berkowitz explained how he inherited the farm from his father and that consumers are not demanding cage-free with only approximately 15% of the production nationwide cage-free. His answers to legislators questions cleared up much confusion about egg production. Coggin attacked HSUS as lacking credibility and continues to face challenges for misconduct. Klippen showed a picture of round worm infestation from cage-free and as well as Red Mite problems for cage-free. He also referenced the research on broken breast bones from perches and the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply did not conclude cage-free to be the ideal form of producing eggs. Sullivan cited the economic impact on federal programs like WIC and SNAP. Dr. Marshall noted how veterinarians familiar with egg production are opposed to the legislation.


II. Supporting Testimony on RI Cage-Free Egg Bill

HSUS, ASPCA, “Humane” Veterinarians, and one person who has chicken pets testified in support of the RI cage-free egg bill H7456. Citing the egg industry’s own economic analysis (dating back to 2008 and California Prop 2) HSUS said the economic impact would only be one cent per egg. They also refuted claims that the cost of eggs in California continue to remain higher than the rest of the country, saying the increased cost initially was due to the outbreak of Avian Influenza. (The data Klippen provided last year in this same hearing was California egg prices were 90% higher in 2016. The year of the AI outbreak 2015, those prices were 49% higher). Other claims by the bill’s supporters were the incidence of Salmonella being higher in “battery” production. The cited the 2010 outbreak (DeCoster) resulting in a recall of millions of eggs. They claimed research has shown Salmonella is more prevalent in “battery production”. The most blatant effort by the animal activists was a veterinarian who tried to refute Klippen’s testimony saying round worms are not a food safety concern since humans cannot pick up round worms from chickens.


National Egg Farmers Support Rep. Steve King's HR4879

National Egg Farmers Support Rep. Steve King's HR4879

H. R. 4879

To prevent States and local jurisdictions from interfering with the production and distribution of agricultural products in interstate or foreign commerce, and for other purposes.


January 25, 2018

Mr. King of Iowa (for himself, Mr. Peterson, Mr. Goodlatte, Mr. Marshall, and Mr. Pittenger) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


To prevent States and local jurisdictions from interfering with the production and distribution of agricultural products in interstate or foreign commerce, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act of 2018”.


(a) In General.—Consistent with article I, section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution of the United States, the government of a State or locality therein shall not impose a standard or condition on the production or manufacture of any agricultural product sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce if—

(1) such production or manufacture occurs in another State; and

(2) the standard or condition is in addition to the standards and conditions applicable to such production or manufacture pursuant to—

(A) Federal law; and

(B) the laws of the State and locality in which such production or manufacture occurs.

(b) Agricultural Product Defined.—In this section, the term “agricultural product” has the meaning given such term in section 207 of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (7 U.S.C. 1626).


(a) Private Right Of Action.—A person, including, but not limited to, a producer, transporter, distributer, consumer, laborer, trade association, the Federal Government, a State government, or a unit of local government, which is affected by a regulation of a State or unit of local government which regulates any aspect of an agriculture good, including any aspect of the method of production, which is sold in interstate commerce, or any means or instrumentality through which such an agriculture good is sold in interstate commerce, may bring an action in the appropriate court to invalidate such a regulation and seek damages for economic loss resulting from such regulation.

(b) Preliminary Injunction.—Upon a motion of the plaintiff, the court shall issue a preliminary injunction to preclude the State or unit of local government from enforcing the regulation at issue until such time as the court enters a final judgment in the case, unless the State or unit of local government proves by clear and convincing evidence that—

(1) the State or unit of local government is likely to prevail on the merits at trial; and

(2) the injunction would cause irreparable harm to the State or unit of local government.

(c) Statute Of Limitations.—No action shall be maintained under this section unless it is commenced within 10 years after the cause of action arose.

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