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California Egg Law Stands, Hens Spread Their Wings in Approval

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Laying hens at the Enriched Colony Barn, which provides 116.4 square inches per hen. (Tomas Ovalle / April 30, 2012)

(NaturalSociety) In 2008, California passed a law that by 2015 all eggs sold in the Golden state must be laid by hens raised with enough room to spread their wings. Recently, a lawmaker from Iowa challenged that law, hoping to get rid of it (and potentially many others) with what was called a “radical” amendment. His effort failed and Californians can rest assured their eggs came from slightly happier hens.

According to the LA Times, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) believed the California law limited farmers in other states from being able to sell to that most populous West Coast state. He argued it was limiting Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. But, as other lawmakers opposed King’s argument, it was clear he was mistaken.

The average hen has a wingspan of 30 to 32 inches. Often, layers are confined to cages so small they can barely turn around, let alone stretch their wings. In the heartbreaking world of factory farming, allowing hens to flap their wings is hardly a groundbreaking advancement. But it’s an advancement nonetheless.

Rep. King’s state is a top producer for eggs as well as other agricultural goods—it’s a big farming state. And many of these farmers are not the small family-types from a few generations ago, but large operations where the animals are more product than living being. It only makes sense he would represent the interests of Big Ag in his Capitol Hill endeavors.

California Gov. Jerry Brown along with the Humane Society of the United States and other groups were opposed to the amendment filed by King, calling it “radical” and “overreaching”.

“This is a victory for states’ rights,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock). Turlock suggested the language of King’s amendment would have “led to a race to the bottom for agriculture production laws nationwide, trampled on the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution and imperiled the fate of California egg producers.”

Though the wing-span law doesn’t take effect for another year, egg producers in California (and those in other states who hope to sell in there) are making their adjustments now. Progressive laws in a large state like this can lead to changes nationwide as producers don’t want to lose out on booming market of California.


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