The United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States have joined together to call for Congress to pass H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, which would require egg producers to increase the cage space per hen in a tiered phase-in, with the amount of space hens are given increasing, in intervals, over the next 15 to 18 years.
Currently, the majority of hens are each provided 67 square inches of space, with tens of millions receiving 48 square inches. The proposed phase-in would culminate with a minimum of 124 square inches of space for white hens and 144 for brown hens nationwide. “Eggs are a national commodity, and egg producers should have a level playing field — not have different, costly rules in all 50 states,” said Gene Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers. “We need this legislation for our customers and consumers and the survival of egg farmers.”
The act would also:
- require conventional cages to be replaced during an ample phase-in period with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly double the amount of current space;
- require that, after a phase-in period, all egg-laying hens be provided with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express natural behaviors;
- require labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs — “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens” and “eggs from free-range hens”;
- prohibit feed- or water-withdrawal molting to extend the laying cycle, a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers Certified program;
- require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia of egg-laying hens;
- prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses; and
- prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.
“The [Humane Society of the United States] and [United Egg Producers] have been long-time adversaries, but have come together and identified a solution that balances animal welfare and the economic realities of the industry,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. The two groups have put together an advertising campaign in support of their efforts to pass the legislation.