The Association of California Egg Farmers announced its support for the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein. Among the bill's provisions, it would establish a national housing standard for egg laying hens. It proposes similar requirements to a bill introduced earlier in the year in the House of Representatives, HR 3798, and it is jointly supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP).
"We thank Senator Feinstein for her leadership and we are pleased to support this bill. Most importantly, we welcome the recognition by the Senator and the HSUS that California's use of the enriched colony system is indeed a safe and superior hen habitat," said Arnie Riebli, a Sonoma County egg farmer and president of the Association of California Egg Farmers. He added, "We need this legislation so our state's egg farmers can effectively compete while providing California consumers with a local, wholesome and affordable supply of eggs."
The Egg Products Inspection Act would recognize the enriched colony system as the new national housing standard for laying hens instead of conventional cages. The enriched colony system enables hens to sit, stand, stretch and turn around in a clean, safe enclosure that protects hens from outside predators. The Association of California Egg Farmers has worked to strongly advocate the enriched colony system since the passage of Proposition 2 in 2008.
The colony system house provides 116 square inches of space compared to 67 square inches of space in a conventional cage. According to recently released data on hen performance in colonies versus conventional cages, eggs laid per hen in a colony house were 421 versus 399 eggs per hen in a conventional cage. In addition, mortality rates were lower in the colony housing system than a cage system.
"Passing the Egg Products Inspection Act would be a historic improvement for hundreds of millions of animals per year," stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States in a statement announcing the agreement. "It is always our greatest hope to find common ground and to forge solutions, even with traditional adversaries. We hope Congress seizes the opportunity to embrace this legislative collaboration and mutual understanding. We extend our thanks to the producers within the industry for agreeing to make the needed investments to upgrade their housing and improve animal welfare in a meaningful way."