NSAC's Blog

United Egg Producers Act to Improve Welfare

July 7, 2011

United Egg Producers (UEP), an industry association representing 80 percent of US egg producers, today announced it will join with NSAC member The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to urge Congress to enact a law that will require $4 billion in animal welfare improvements to be phased in over the next 15 to 18 years.

There are more than 280 million egg-laying hens in the US, with over 90 percent of these confined to wire battery cages.  Current UEP welfare standards require 67 square inches per bird.  It is estimated that at least 50 million hens are confined in more crowded conditions that do not meet current UEP standards.

The proposed legislation would require egg producers to provide at least 124 inches per bird.  It would also:

  • require cage enrichments such as perches and nesting areas;
  • end the practice of withholding food or water to force molting;
  • set euthanasia standards;
  • prohibit excessive levels of amounts of ammonia in henhouses;
  • mandate method-of-production labeling on egg cartons (“eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free-range hens”); and
  • ban the sale of eggs that don’t meet these conditions.

In its memorandum of understanding with the UEP, HSUS agreed to stop ballot measures, state legislation, litigation, and undercover investigations pertaining to the welfare of egg-laying hens.  HSUS had planned to submit tomorrow signatures to place the issue on the November 2011 ballot in Washington state, but has agreed not to pursue this measure.  Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS, in explaining these concessions, acknowledged, “It is a major, major investment by industry to improve welfare.”  A number of other national animal welfare organizations joined HSUS in supporting the agreement.

HSUS and UEP concur that having a national standard is preferable to a patchwork of conflicting state laws.  Bob Krouse, Chairman of the UEP Board and a fifth generation family farmer from North Manchester, Indiana announced, “We are really excited as an industry about doing this.  This is a thrilling moment for us in egg production.”

He said that producers would pay the capital costs to implement improvements to the henhouses.  He explained that consumer demand dictates the number of hens raised for egg production and predicted that the number of birds raised will remain the same, but that there will be a modest increase in the price of eggs.  Speaking about enriched cages, he concluded, “That really is a better way of taking care of our birds than what we are doing right now.”

Pacelle said that UEP and HSUS will introduce the proposed legislation to members of Congress beginning today, with a goal of passing the bill within a year.   It would be the first national law to establish on-farm animal welfare standards.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Local & Regional Food Systems

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