Human Exceptionalism

The Egg Industry Responds to HSUS Sponsored California “Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act”

I wrote about the pending voter initative in California (Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act) that would, among other matters, outlaw “battery cages” for the housing of hens. I posted the HSUS argument in favor of the initiative here. Now, an egg industry representative has sent along arguments on the other side:


You had an excellent posting on your blog recently about HSUS’ ballot initiative aimed at driving the egg industry out of California. You asked some specific questions, which deserve answers. Let me provide them to you.

1. Are modern hen houses and cages humane and ethical? YES. An independent group of the nation’s top animal science experts (Michigan State University, Perdue, University of California, American Veterinary Medical Association, etc.) say that modern hen houses and cage systems are humane and ethical so long as they follow the UEP Certified standards–which 90 % of US egg farmers follow. (You can find the seal on many egg cartons). These standards ensure that hens have adequate space, nutritious and proper food, clean continuous water, air, etc. Validation is done by independent inspectors.

2. Why did egg farmers put their hens in modern hen houses 50 years ago, rather than leaving them roaming the fields? Because it improved food safety, helped ensure the proper diet for all hens, helped reduce the amount of diseases that hens were afflicted with and thus reduced or eliminated the need for antibiotics, helped protect the hens from predators and the weather, and now helps to protect the spread of Avian Influenza ( which is spread by birds and hens housed outdoors).

3. Yes, modern hen houses also are more efficient, which means eggs can be produced for consumers at $1 dozen rather than $3 or more per dozen for cage free or free range.

4. The way this issue is written on the ballot, it will ban not only the most modern hen houses in California…it also inadvertently will ban all cage free egg production as well (which are kept inside barns, hence would still be in violation of the statute).

5. It may encourage more “free range” egg farms to be developed, which environmentally will put much more pressure on air and water resources.

So, if California voters pass this ballot issue in November, this will drive almost all egg farmers out of California. California consumers will then have to pay more to buy those very same eggs (from modern hen houses and cages) from farmers in adjoining states or Mexico (the law doesn’t ban the sale of those eggs in California, just the production of them); California consumers will have some of their food choices in the grocery store taken away from them and dictated by animal rights activists (who, by the way, are vegans and don’t eat eggs at all … any kind of eggs. They want people to stop eating eggs altogether, and forcing the price up is just one way of doing that); poor people will have a nutritious, inexpensive source of protein taken away from them.

You can find out more information about egg production by visiting

On behalf of America’s egg farmers and the United Egg Producers (the industry trade association)

Mitch Head

Interesting. HSUS describes the initiative as merely requiring that hens have enough space to turn around and spread their wings. The industry’s “modern cages” would seem to do that, but the HSUS representative admitted that the practical effect would be to ban all cages. So, there is a point of agreement there. But HSUS says the change would only raise the price of eggs a cent, while the industry believes it will raise the cost of eggs so high it will drive the industry out of the state.

My sense is that the animal rights movement would be very pleased to drive the egg business out of California. But the time has clearly come to check out the initiative’s language. Stay tuned. My business and personal schedule is frantic, but I will get to that task soon.

The Latest