Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013, a bipartisan bill to establish a national standard for the humane treatment of egg-laying hens and the labeling of eggs.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) are cosponsors of the legislation. Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) introduced the bill today in the House of Representatives.
"This bill is the product of an agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers, which represent 88 percent of the nation's egg industry," said Senator Feinstein. "It addresses a patchwork of divergent state laws by establishing a national standard for the humane treatment of egg-laying hens."
Six states currently have different standards for the treatment of egg-laying hens, and another 18 states allow citizen ballot initiatives that could lead to similar laws in the future. These radically differing standards makes it difficult for egg producers to ship their product across state lines.
For example, a new standard for cages in California is set to take effect in 2015. Without a federal standard, egg farmers in other states will have to drastically change their production methods or be shut out of the California market, potentially increasing prices. Standards in other states, including Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Ohio, are set to take effect over the coming years, which will increase the confusion.
The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments sets a national standard and ensures that hens are treated humanely. This legislation means that egg producers have a level playing field of regulations. The legislation will:
-Outlaw the practice of starving chickens to increase egg-production;
-Require conventional battery cages to be replaced with new housing systems that nearly doubles the space for each egg-laying hen;
-Require that, after a phase-in period, all egg-laying hens be provided with "environmental enrichments" such as nesting boxes and scratching areas;
-Require labeling on all egg cartons to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, including "eggs from caged hens," "eggs from hens in enriched cages," "eggs from cage-free hens" and "eggs from free-range hens;" and
-Prohibit the transport and sale of eggs that do not meet these requirements.
"This legislation is entirely consistent with California's Proposition 2, which California voters overwhelmingly passed in 2008," Senator Feinstein added. "Prop 2 requires egg producers to increase cage size by 2015 so birds can stand up and extend their wings. This legislation maintains that requirement and deadline for California egg farmers; other states must comply with that standard by 2029."
This bill represents more than two years of negotiation and has broad support from the egg industry and animal welfare groups including the United Egg Producers, the Humane Society of the United States and the Association of California Egg Farmers.