Monday, March 9, 2015

What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

The two news articles that I reviewed both discussed California’s Proposition 2. The proposition, brought forth by the Humane Society of the United States, requires a new standard for caged hens. The proposition, which was approved in 2008, stated that by January 1st, 2015 hens have to be placed in cages that are big enough for them to stand up and stretch. While this was a proposition in California, it extends to any egg producers that export their eggs into California. States like Iowa and Ohio, who are major exporters of eggs into California, have to abide by these regulations as well (Fox, 2015).
The announcement was not welcomed by farmers. According to the guardian, the president of the Humane Farming Association (HFA), “blasted” the law and the primary sponsor (Westervelt, 2015). The president of HFA, Bradley Miller, said the law still promotes the use of cages and that it is a step in the wrong direction. Instead of moving towards cage-free or pasture-raised hens, farmers bought larger cages to place the hens in. Farmers who could not afford to buy bigger cages ended up killing their hens to meet the standards.
When reading the two articles I found myself better understanding the damage that a poorly made policy could have on producers and consumers. Instead of using incentives to help farmers switch to cage free or pasture-raised hens, the law put a financial burden for the implementations of bigger cages. In my mind, if I was a farmer I would be faced with 3 options: (1) buy bigger cages (2) decrease/kill my hen count to adhere to the regulation or (3) go out of business or export to another state.  Moving to cage-free or pasture raised eggs wouldn’t even be considered an option in my mind since it would require a substantial change in environment and technique (something that some of these farmers could not develop).
Outside note:* If I was to pursue this issue further, I would definitely look at the difference in policy between California’s proposition 2 and EU policy on the banning of battery cages. I would also look at the problems associated with cage-free and pasture-raised eggs. From what I currently see (which is quite interesting) is that battery cages create behavioral deprivation, while free range and pasture raised hens create problems from a lack of management and neglect by the farmers. I could discuss this further if needed.  *
--Ben Glaser

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