During a United Egg Producers (UEP) Area 4 & 5 briefing held over Zoom on August 17, Chad Gregory, president, UEP, Oscar Garrison, vice president of food safety, UEP and Larry Sadler, vice president of animal welfare, UEP led a discussion concerning Proposition 12 and cage free state laws. 

Proposition 12 clarification

Portions of Proposition 12 found to be unclear, according to comments filed to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) by the United Egg Association of Further Processors (UEA FP), were discussed. “The comments point out a number of ambiguities that remain with respect to how the regulations will apply in specific situations,” said Garrison.

The definitions of “commercial sales” and applicable sales occurring onsite at FSIS-inspected plants, as well as sales to nonprofit organizations (including the USDA Commodity Purchase Program), seem to be exempt from the requirements. Additional questions were submitted concerning combination food products and the scope of the regulations related to where these products can be processed or constructed to comply with the law.

Proposition 12 labeling

Starting on July 1, 2022 (depending on the finalization of the rule by the CDFA), the principal display panel on each container of shell eggs for commercial sale in California are required to contain the statement “CA Cage Free” or “Cage Free CA.” The CA SEFS (California Shell Egg Food Safety Compliant) statement must also remain on the container.

“So essentially there are two sets of regulations that producers will have to comply to,” stated Garrison. “One is related to prop 12, the other is related to the food safety requirements that were established during Prop 2 for shell eggs.” Additionally, Garrison explained that there is a need for uniformity in cage free labeling for all state regulatory programs with cage free laws to reduce confusion between producers and carton manufacturers.

“Do producers want to see California’s specific language for cage free? Or is something more generic preferred so that the carton can be compliant in multiple states?”

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State Laws

State laws have been the hottest topic in animal welfare recently due to the January 2019 Supreme Court decision to allow states to set their own animal welfare standards explained Gregory and Sadler.

Massachusetts is still operating under the regulation that all eggs produced and sold should be from hens with 1.5 square feet per bird, starting January 1, 2022. “We are still optimistic that the legislature will change that law to 1.0 square feet per hen in the state and in the US by January 1, 2021. If not changed, we expect total chaos and massive egg shortages in Massachusetts, and the governor changing the law later in the year,” described Gregory.

“Looking at the states where cage free laws have been committed to, where the animal rights activists are working, and those state populations, the number of cage free hens needed will be approximately 130 million to meet those state laws by a 2025 date. When you consider other customer’s 2025 cage free commitments, its financially and logistically impossible for our producers to achieve,” stated Gregory.

The animal rights associations involved are focused on putting all their resources into passing legislation across the western half of the US to obtain consistent requirements across those states.