The new Egg Bill, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013, was introduced on April 25 in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; and in the House by Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore; Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif; Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Penn; Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif; and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif. Both the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States heralded the introduction of the legislation into the current Congress.

“Most egg farms are family-owned, independent businesses, which provide an essential low-cost source of protein to 300 million consumers every day,” said Chad Gregory, president of United Egg Producers, which represents farmers producing 95 percent of the eggs in the United States. “We desperately need a federal statute that establishes one national standard of egg production, because the current myriad state legislation threatens to eliminate interstate egg commerce, destroying our businesses and potentially leading to egg shortages and consumer price spikes in many states,” he added. “This would create a major hardship for millions of low- and middle-income consumers.”

The proposed legislation outlines a minimum national standard for egg production and hen housing in the U.S. in place of contradictory state laws. The legislation is nearly identical to last year’s bill and will require egg farmers to essentially double the amount of space allotted per hen and make other important animal welfare modifications during a tiered phase-in period during the next 15 to 16 yearsexcept in California, where Proposition 2 will require all hens to be out of conventional cages by January 1, 2015.

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The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 would:

  • 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 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 banned 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 except during short periods of adverse weather conditions
  • Prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements