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University of California
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Chickens coming home to roost

Kind-hearted Californians resoundingly supported Proposition 2 last November, which, among other things, requires farmers to provide the state's egg-laying hens with room to spread their wings. One of the concerns discussed before its passage - that unaffected producers from other states and Mexico will flood the California market with their cheaper eggs - would be mitigated by passage of Assembly Bill 1437, according to a Sacramento Bee story, which also appeared in the Merced Sun-Star.

The proposed law, which passed in the Assembly by a 65-12 vote, was written by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. It is likely to be heard next in the Senate Food and Agriculture Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, one of Huffman's co-authors on the bill, the story said.

The new law would require that all eggs sold in California be from cage-free hens. Reporter Jim Downing contacted the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dan Sumner, for perspective on the prospective regulation.

Cage-free systems add a penny or two to the cost of producing an egg, according to a UC study last year titled Economic Effects of Proposed Restrictions on Egg-Laying Hen Housing in California. However, the retail cost of a dozen cage-free eggs is currently about $1 more than conventionally produced eggs. "If cage-free eggs were the only type available in California, that spread would likely narrow to roughly the difference in production costs," Downing paraphrased Sumner.

Posted on Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:23 AM

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