Michigan Senate Bill 0660 passed Wednesday, January 31, 2018. The vote was 32:5. Michigan Senator Meekhof offered an amendment to SB 0660 that stated: "The legislature finds that, to protect the welfare and safety of Michigan consumers from increased risk of foodborne illness and to prevent associated negative fiscal impacts on this state, it is necessary to prohibit the sale of any shell eggs produced by an egg-laying hen that was confined in a certain manner.”
Ken Klippen, with the National Association of Egg Farmers, called the passage of SB 0660 in Michigan disappointing.
“The bill that recently passed in the Michigan Senate will not improve food safety as claimed.” – Ken Klippen, National Association of Egg Farmers
“After watching the hearing, the only comments entertained verbally were from those favoring the bill even though I requested my comments be entered into the record. I then wrote to each Senator explaining how the bill would not result in more humane conditions for the hen, it would increase the cost of eggs sold in the state, and may eventually be challenged by the attorneys general who have filed lawsuits against the California egg law and Massachusetts voter initiative to restrict the commerce of eggs entering that state,” Klippen explained after being asked about his thoughts on the recent passing of the law.
The cost for producers to transition is approximately US$35-45 per bird, depending on the amount of changes made in their current barns. Producers will start transitioning before 2025, but the eggs some produce in their cage-free systems will not sell as readily. They cost more, and consumers will continue to buy the economy-priced eggs, he noted. Cal-Maine and Rose Acres reported that happening and released that they would be cutting back on their cage-free production until consumers were demanding more of the product.
“The bill that recently passed in the Michigan Senate will not improve food safety as claimed,” Klippen said.
He explained that Penn State researchers have found that eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis than eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks, and that the new Michigan production standards will not improve bird welfare as cagenfree has a higher incidence of hen mortality than conventional cages.
The letter Klippen and company sent to the Michigan Senate also explained that a study conducted by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply reported that the cage-free system had dust levels eight to 10 times higher than other systems. In addition, the cage-free system resulted in high worker exposure to endotoxin dust particles and reduced lung function by the end of a shift.
The new Michigan law will bring an end to economy-priced eggs, and only the higher priced, cage-free product will be able to cross into Michigan.
Outside of Michigan
“When the (similar) California law passed, the impact on egg prices was very soon. Egg prices were 90 percent higher than the rest of the U.S.” Klippen said.
Rhode Island is also feeling the pressures of a cage-free transition mandated by law.
Other industry professionals have also expressed their concerns with producers making the transition to cage free. Larry Sadler, Ph.D., vice president of animal welfare for United Egg Producers (UEP), discussed the commitment of companies to sell cage-free eggs by a certain future date at the 2017 Live Production, Welfare and Biosecurity Convention, in September 2017.
If those companies keep their commitment, that would mean 223 million layers would need to be cage free by 2025. That would cost industry producers US$10 billion dollars to convert housing systems currently used in the U.S. “This change may not be reasonable with only seven years to get there,” said Sadler.