H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, would: 

  • require conventional cages to be replaced during an ample phase-in period with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide all egg-laying hens 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.

If enacted, the proposal would require egg producers to increase 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. (Phase-in schedules are more rapid in California, consistent with a ballot initiative approved earlier by that state's voters.)  Currently, the majority of hens are each provided 67 square inches of space, with up to 50 million receiving just 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.

Farmers have begun to invest in enrichable cage housing systems in hopes that this legislation will pass and provide clarity for what is acceptable hen housing in all states in the future.