The Humane Society of the U.S. and the United Egg Producers said they agreed to urge U.S. lawmakers to enact national standards for the treatment and living conditions of hens, including more cage space.
The agreement calls for new “enriched housing systems” that offer nearly double the amount of space provided for birds in conventional cages used in more than 90 percent of the egg-producing industry, the groups said today in a joint statement. The change will cost the industry $4 billion over the next 15 years, according to the groups.
“We strongly believe our commitment to a national standard for hen welfare is in the best interest of our animals, customers and consumers,” Bob Krouse, an Indiana egg farmer and chairman of the UEP, said in the statement. “We are committed to working together for the good of the hens in our care and believe a national standard is far superior than a patchwork of state laws and regulations.”
Planned ballot measures related to egg-laying hens in Washington and Oregon will be placed on hold because the agreement helps clear the way for more comprehensive federal legislation, the groups said in the statement.
The proposal drew opposition from the National Pork Producers Council, which expressed concern with a “one-size-fits-all approach” for the livestock industry that may create uncertainty for hog producers who use a variety of housing systems for animals.
“Legislation pre-empting state laws on egg-production systems would set a dangerous precedent for allowing the federal government to dictate how livestock and poultry producers raise and care for their animals,” Doug Wolf, the council’s president, said in an e-mailed statement.
The U.S. pork industry is committed to animal well-being, he said.
Other parts of the proposal include labeling on egg cartons to inform consumers of how the eggs were produced, such as “eggs from caged hens,” and standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia for hens.
The UEP is a farmer cooperative that represents owners of about 80 percent of the nation’s egg-laying hens. The Humane Society is the largest U.S. animal-protection organization.