Humane Society and United Egg Producers hatch plan for egg standards
July 7th, 2011
06:45 PM ET
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Today, The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers announced in a joint statement that they will work together to urge U.S. lawmakers to craft legislation overseeing the living conditions of the 280 million hens involved in U.S. egg production. This would mark the first federal law regulating the treatment of animals on farms.

Among the proposed standards would be living quarters allowing 124-144 square inches of space (most currently receive 67 square inches, and some 50 million reside in 48 square inches) for each chicken, environments that allow birds to express "natural behaviors" in boxes, scratching areas and perches, and a reduction in excessive ammonia levels in hen houses.

Additionally, the statement called for a cessation of practices that extend the laying cycle by prohibiting food and water levels (a practice frowned upon by most of the industry) as well as an extension of label requirements to inform customers if they are buying “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” or “eggs from free-range hens.”

Eggs and egg products not meeting these standards would be barred from sale nationwide.

Bob Krouse, chairman of the United Egg Producers and an Indiana egg farmer, himself said in the statement, “America’s egg producers have continually worked to improve animal welfare, and we strongly believe our commitment to a national standard for hen welfare is in the best interest of our animals, customers and consumers.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States also wrote, "It is always our greatest hope to find common ground and to forge solutions, even with traditional adversaries. We are excited about a new and better pathway forward and hope the Congress seizes the opportunity to embrace this sort of collaboration and mutual understanding."

Doug Wolf, president of the National Pork Producers Council, however expressed some concern over the notion of sweeping overhauls writing in a statement, "NPPC is gravely concerned that such a one-size-fits-all approach will take away producers’ freedom to operate in a way that’s best for their animals, make it difficult to respond to consumer demands, raise retail meat prices and take away consumer choice, devastate niche producers and, at a time of constrained budgets for agriculture, redirect valuable resources from enhancing food safety and maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture to regulating on-farm production practices for reasons other than public health and welfare."

The cost of retrofitting or changing the living conditions is estimated to cost egg farmers $4 billion nationwide and take place over the next 15 to 18 years. Some of that cost is expected to be passed along to consumers.

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Filed under: Animal Rights • Eggs • Food Politics

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soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Jody

    Hip Hip horray!! It's about time! I wish I had the space to have my own chickens, they would be treated just like family!
    We have neded a few policies in this direction for awhile!! I'm behind this all the way

    July 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  2. conservative Bill

    This is a BAD idea. We, each of us, have the ability and the responsibility to choose for ourselves what we consume, what values we have and how we want to treat mother earth and all its inhabitants. Throwing away that freedom, giving away that responsibility to some nameless, faceless political hack bureaucrat in a city far away so we don't have to use our will power is a BAD idea. We vote for our legislators. We also vote for our way of living. Each time we spend a dollar we cast a vote. Every dollar we spend supports something. If we buy Chinese chicken parts that says a great deal about us. If we don't want to say that about ourselves we have the choice to buy the food we want. It takes some spine, particularly for those of us who have little money. But if we allow Washington to make that choice for us we can never exercise our free choice, we can never vote for the way we want to live. And it is somewhat frightening that none of the responses so far has even mentioned the role we want Big Brother to play in our lives. It is said that he who controls the money controls the nation, he who controls the food controls the people. Is this what we really want? We all have the choice ourselves. We all have the responsibility, too. Once you see that you have responsibility you can't give it away and feel good about yourself. We need to be able to feel good about ourselves.

    July 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  3. Terry

    The HSUS has consistently opposed enriched cages, lobbying for CAGE-FREE from coast to coast. The fraud-ridden animal rights group has been losing credibility in recent years, due to their morally bankrupt CEO and numerous fundraising scandals and government investigations.

    This agreement, hammered out in secret, is an attempt to coopt the work of legitimate animal welfare charities, especially the Temple Grandin-backed American Humane Association, who have researched and promoted enriched cages for years. Pacelle gets to pretend that HSUS is a mainstream group, play the part of a hero instead of the con man he is, and use this agreement on a PR and fundraising binge.

    July 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • oldone

      Thank you for that. Temple Grandin is the tops in my book for credibility in human treatment of livestock!!

      July 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  4. Logike

    I wish you all would visit an egg laying operation. Not just drive by and see how it smells and make your own assumptions about what's going on inside while you read HSUS's false reporting. No, it's not freedom, but they're BIRDS for God's sake. They have tiny brains and really don't give a crap about the outside world they're missing. I work in the industry. I've seen the conditions and met many of the highly educated and experienced people that manage these operations. They are very clean and humane. The birds are comfortable, I promise. And believe it or not, the farmers do care about their birds' well being. If they didn't, and they did actually treat them poorly, wouldn't that mean they'd have a poor return? The birds have to be healthy to produce at optimum levels. Duh.

    July 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  5. JC

    It doesn't matter to me what the UEP does. I still will not buy eggs that I don't know where they came from. I don't think this does anything to make things better for the animals or the consumers. As someone else posted.....they will get the equivalent of one floor tile?!! To the people suck too! I'll keep buying what I'm not raising myself from my local farmers. I no longer trust any of the food companies. They chose long time ago to cheat the consumers by cheapening what they call "food" and they didn't have to do it. They did it because they only were interested in making another dollar.

    July 8, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  6. Burbank

    They love to cry poor mouth and it's going to cost the consumer more as a threat to avoid having to be humane. So what! The food will be healthier to eat if they don't have to load it with antibiotics because of the dsease and filth of the crampe, overcrowded inhumane conditions. Besides, making the swtich could create some jobs for people to make the new cages and such.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  7. Pearl

    The egg industry abuses hens horribly. This is a step in the right direction, but I hope that more will be done.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  8. Jorge

    The comment from the Pork Industry spokesman should be taken with a BIG grain of salt. He said that farmers need "freedom to operate in a way that’s best for their animals..." Just this week, The following video was released that shows standard practices on pig farms all around the country:

    July 8, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  9. Ty

    This is great news! Anyone who is interested in the legal, industry standard, current conditions for hens on factory farms should watch the following short documentary:

    July 8, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  10. Voltairine

    "Food, Inc."

    July 8, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  11. Eddie

    On one hand, good for them, on the other, it's really sad to think that we're celebrating chickens each getting ONE WHOLE SQUARE FOOT to themselves. 144 square inches is 1 square foot. The size of one floor tile. Not good enough.

    July 8, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Gail

      You are so right! Good for you for pointing it out. One floor tile is all the space they will have. But, it is better than what they had before, zero. We can start here and still keep protesting for better treatment of our chickens. They feed us give their life for us. We can at least make their days comfortable.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Juan-Tile layer

      These chikens will be taking my yob !

      July 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  12. Greg

    "Some of that cost is expected to be passed along to consumers." SOME? Naaa, all of it will - including the resulting cascade costs.
    What will happen is that many producers will not have the money to make the facility changes. Others may try to get loans to accomplish it (yea, right). There will be a reduction in numbers of chickens, not only because of the floor space requirement - but also because of culling during the off-seasons (I won't continue to feed non-producers for 4 months when I can raise a replacement in 1 month). Cap-n-Trade/ energy/ costs are already driving up the costs of the off-season lighting that is the current work-around.

    The small operation that is getting by because they can get premium pricing for those "organic", free-range eggs will go away because their niche will become the mandated standard.

    Another basic high quality food is going to become expensive.

    I think that this particular issue should be market-driven, not legislated. Vote with your wallet.

    Think ahead. There is more horse suffering today because of the ban on horse slaughter. Where will this chicken thing take us?

    July 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • heamye

      You sound like the people who were on Oprah trying to make us believe that eggs will be extinct because of new laws...garbage. And horse neglect is more widespread not because of the ban on slaughter, but because people are too cheap to call a vet for euthanasia. Whenever people are cheap, nasty and ignorant, animals and children are abused and neglected.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
      • Greg

        Sorry, Heame, bad guess. I have a small farm with assorted crops and livestock - freerange (with access to the table crops fenced off). While I do most of the animal healthcare myself, I do have a real vet do a farm visit a couple of times a year, just to do a general check-up - and to keep me from sliding into bad habits. I am *not* unique in my community.
        Most livestock have a floor financial value, determined by meat price. Floor value for a horse is zero. Mix that with people who get one after seeing National Velvet, Black Stallion, Spirit, or some other glamorous fiction - then "fall out of love", or loose the job that made it affordable. The horses get abandoned. I have turned away many freebee horses myself, because I won't overload my own land nor expose my own animals to the health risks involved.

        July 8, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  13. Agvoacte

    I love eggs. They are delicious in the morning and a great source of protein. I am though extremely disappointed in the United Egg Producers. Partnering with the HSUS is the worst idea they could possibly have. You have many consumers like myself who know that HSUS is an organization set out to end animal agriculture. There is no added health benefits to eating caged eggs vs. free rage. Industrial ag is not a bad thing! It keeps food prices low for consumers, helps us trade with other countries, and we are able to enjoy a safe food supply. Go to a farm and tour their operation. They will be happy to show you around.

    July 8, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Natt

      "safe food supply" ?? Are you nuts? Tysons largest chicken plant is in Mexico and guess where they get the chickens from? China. That's right, China.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:45 am |
      • The Witty One

        That's ok with me. I need more lead in my diet.

        July 8, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • eggfarmer

      Industrial chicken farming = chickens living in a box and sitting in their own fecal matter their whole life. Ever looked at a fresh egg and one bought at the store? I have. I raise 14 hens and KNOW the difference. I admit is it cheaper to buy eggs from industrial chicken farming, but the conditions are unacceptable.

      July 8, 2011 at 11:37 am |
      • Suz

        We get eggs from our local co-op, and they're actually a whole dollar LESS than store-bought eggs – my guess is because they came from the farm up the road, so not as much cost for fuel to transport them.

        And they're delicious, and cruelty-free. :)

        July 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
      • Logike

        you have no idea what you're talking about. educate yourself before making false statements. hens in large laying operations are in cages in which their waste falls through the cage onto large conveyor belts which is moved and collected and kept away from the birds and their eggs.

        July 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • LLH

      There absolutely is a difference. Both in taste (richer and more complex) and texture. Eggs from free-range hens have more solid and vividly colored yolks.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
      • Logike

        i'm sure that depends on the feed given to the chickens. industrial farms have this down to a science.

        July 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • heamye

      I don't care if there is a difference in the healthiness of eggs. I give a crap about how the animals are treated. Don't need the other propaganda. Right is right, wrong is wrong. Simple.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Trisha

      Wow have to be one of the selfish people that are willing to impose suffering on others as long as it benefits you. Your selfishness and ignorance is dissappointing. I just wish that you were one of those hens. You are only LUCKY that you are a human. Ever think about if you were disadvantaged in some way that you would hope someone, anyone would fight for you or help you, rather than say..."wow, that's too expensive..besides, it's not me who's suffering." I wish you were a better person. I wish you had empathy for those who suffer to make your wallet heavier. Do you also know that to because the hens in cages have no room to spread their wings and their beaks and toes are often CUT OFF to prevent them from pecking or scratching each other in such a tiny, tiny cage??
      And those who are really worried about the cost of eggs going up...I pay $3.99 per dozen for free range eggs from Wegmans/Tops and it's even cheaper if you buy from a local farmer or farmers market. I would hands down rather pay $2 or $3 more dollars for a dozen eggs that are not only from ethically treated hens, but have less cholesterol, more omega 3, no antibiotics or hormones, etc..etc.. And seriously, that $2 your "saving" by buying caged hens' eggs...really!?!? $2!! Get a better job for goodness sakes or stop having children that you can't afford to feed healthy, ethical food to!

      July 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
      • yeni

        Good girl :-)

        July 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Suz

      Industrial agriculture is disgusting, and if you think it's safer than family farms, you've been snowed bad. All you have to do is drive past the many chicken farms in Delaware to know how truly disgusting they are.

      The Humane Society is not looking to put ag out of business; they just want to see the animals treated better, that's all. I'm a vegetarian myself, and I know that others eat meat and that's fine – but trust me, if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we'd all be vegetarians. There are safe, humane ways to raise and, if we must, slaughter. We need laws in place to prevent suffering.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Logike

      Agvoacte: Although I agree with much of what you are saying, I do want to say this. My initial reaction to the partnership was similar to yours. But, I do think what the United Egg Producers is doing is smart. This legislation will help to protect customers and the marketplace from other legislation that could be implemented by HSUS. And this legislation gives the farmers time to change their operations over time to minimize any disruption and financial hardship on themselves and the consumer.

      July 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  14. truefax


    July 8, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Natt


      July 8, 2011 at 10:23 am |
      • fruity one

        egg roll tootsie roll! lol!

        July 8, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  15. BeMe

    The worst-case scenario for the big egg producers is that egg costs are driven so high that more people start keeping their own chickens...which I think is the best-case scenario for people and chickens.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Juli

      To raise 2-3 chickens (which produces about 10-15 eggs per week) It only takes about 6 months to recover the initial costs of setting up a coop etc. for personal egg consumption (less time if you're thrifty with your coop). They continue to lay for an average of 5-7 years, sometimes longer. And the bulk of the cost is in the coop, a chicken costs less than a dozen eggs at most farm supply stores. It is far easier, more humane, and convenient to raise chickens yourself, they don't need much space– anyone with a side yard or even a patio/balcony could do it.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  16. Jerv

    Absolutely love this, so long as it does not put mom and pop operations out of business. I'd love to read more on that. Think I'll research this over the weekend.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Juli

      The thing is, most mom and pop operations have better standards anyway (probably well above what this new standard will be)– they are smaller scale so they don't need to try and cram 5,000 chickens into a 20x20ft warehouse. It simple to raise chickens in a humane and healthy atmosphere, I know many people who do it in their own yards, but when big business steps in, they reduce everything possible to make an extra buck, and that's when the animals suffer.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  17. VegFreak

    These changes will mean not only heathier animals, but healthier food, too. When will we all learn that we don't live in a vaccuum, regardless of whether you think being at the top of the food chain means we can treat animals however you want, and humans bear the cost of industrial farming, too.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Jim970

      Some of the proposals actually will degrade health. "Free range" chickens are more likely to become diseased and live shorter lives than caged chickens. The "Pecking Order" is a real phenomena. Free range chickens, especially in quarters with larger numbers of chickens are more aggressive and more likely to harm others. The solution is to clip their bills – not a pleasant or painless procedure. Otherwise, they will injure each other. Chickens in larger, but still restricted population, cages actually are less aggressive and are longer lived.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
      • R A Williams

        Bill clipping is in no way necessary for free range birds if they are given enough space to move around in. They require 2 to 4 square feet of indoor space and roughly double that outdoors (a total of 864 to 1728 square inches per bird), which is more than quadruple the minimum that this so-called law requires. Higher concentrations of birds produces predatory pecking, feather plucking, high ammonia levels, and other symptoms of overcrowding.

        I've raised my own hens for years. They've got a little hen house with perches and a window, a fenced yard, their own tree, and even toys to play with. I don't need to trim their wing feathers to keep them in their yard, because they've been trained to stay there and will usually stay close even when the gate is open. There is definitely a flock hierarchy and a "pecking order" but they don't attack each other or cannibalize one another because they aren't overcrowded. These are basically pets who produce fertilizer for my garden (which is the primary cost saving) and eggs for my table when they feel like it. They live mostly on garden weeds and vegetable scraps, which they eat out of my hand, but I buy them chicken kibble once in a while for variety and protein. They're less noisy than a dog and less smelly than a typical dog kennel or compost heap. I'd recommend chickens for anyone who has enough yard space to do it properly.

        As to life expectancy, my birds are currently 3 to 4 years old and going strong. I lost one at 4 months to a birth defect, another at a year, and one at age 5. For comparison, the usual life expectancy of a factory bird free of birth defects is about 8 months to a year, because they're slaughtered when they reach their first molt and aren't producing eggs quickly enough.

        July 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  18. Joy

    This is so exciting! Bout time UEP..

    July 7, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
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