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Chicken Welfare Law Expected To Drive Up Egg Prices

Egg prices are expected to rise as a result of a new California chicken welfare law.

Farmers are prohibited from housing farm animals in cramped cages under Proposition 2, also known as the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. The cage systems sometimes house tens of thousands of chickens in stacked rows of 8-by-8 inch wire cages, and activists say the law will prevent suffering and reduce the chances of salmonella contamination.

The cost to chicken farmers of upgraded housing is expected to translate to a 10 to 40 percent increase in the price of wholesale eggs next year, reported the Los Angeles Times. The chickens must be able to “turn around freely, lie down, stand up or fully extend their limbs,” which means many farmers have or will have to get rid of cages and keep fewer chickens to allow the animals more space.

California voters overwhelmingly approved the law in 2008.

It will take effect New Years Day, along with a separate 2010 bill requiring out of state farmers who export eggs to California to meet the same housing standards, reported the LA Times. Ticked off egg producers have repeatedly sued the state — so far unsuccessfully.

“The sad reality is consumers don’t really know where their food comes from,” Chad Gregory, president of United Egg Producers, which represents more than 90 percent of United States egg farmers, told the LA Times. “What they think farming should look like is not a realistic picture if you want to provide a good and affordable source of food to 315 million people.”

A farmer in Iowa is cutting his flock of chickens from 1.5 million to 800,000 to comply with the law. “This will reduce supply and drive up prices,” Jim Dean, CEO of Centrum Valley Farms, told the Portland Press Herald.

More eggs are sold in California than any other state, and about a third of those eggs are imported.

U.S. eggs are currently in high demand, in part because consumers are replacing increasingly pricey meat with eggs, and in part because farmers in Canada and Mexico are dealing with avian flu outbreaks, reported the LA Times.

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