Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the deal with January 1, 2015?
On January 1st, 2015, two important new animal welfare laws take effect in California. Prop 2, a ballot measure overwhelmingly approved by California voters in 2008, will require that all egg-laying hens in California have enough space to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. AB 1437, a law overwhelmingly approved by California legislators in 2010, will extend Prop 2’s standard to all shell (whole) eggs sold in the state.
Are retailers and producers actually going cage-free?
Major retailers and egg producers are already going cage-free. Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass Group have converted to 100 percent cage-free shell eggs in their California operations to comply with the new laws. And many more companies are going cage-free for all their locations and products across the nation, including Unilever (Best Foods), Nestle, Marriott, Burger King, and Starbucks, to meet growing consumer demand.
What about the California Department of Food and Ag’s egg safety rules?
All eggs sold in California must be consistent AB 1437, and also with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s egg safety rules, which have been in effect for decades, but were most recently amended in 2013. This legal requirement is separate from AB 1437, and retailers must ensure their operations are compliant with both the egg safety regulations and the animal welfare requirements of AB 1437.
What about an egg shortage?
Prop 2 gave egg producers six years to improve their facilities to comply with the law. But instead of preparing for Prop 2, many egg producers sued and sued—and lost every time. If any retailers are short on eggs, it’s because some segments of the egg industry failed to prepare for the law in the six long years that they had.
The Humane Society of the US has reached out to all major California retailers to ensure that they’ll have enough eggs. All have assured us that they will have enough eggs. If they don’t, it will be because of their, and egg producers’, failure to prepare for the law. Many egg producers and retailers have already converted to cage-free systems to comply with the new law and to meet consumer demand.
What about egg prices?
Egg prices always fluctuate during the year, and always rise in winter. Egg producer Cal-Maine notes, “wholesale shell egg market prices … fluctuate widely and are outside of our control.” Egg prices go up and down based on energy costs, feed prices, and other variables. Prices for all animal products have increased this year due to high grain prices. Egg prices have increased less than prices for beef and pork, and remain one of the least expensive animal products in the marketplace.
After Europe brought in animal welfare reforms in 2012, egg prices initially rose, only to fall a year later. If egg prices rise in California, it will be because many egg producers failed to use the six year phase-in period to prepare for the law, and prices will subsequently fall as they did in Europe as supply adjusts to demand and as egg prices fluctuate as they normally would.
What about some egg producers who say they’ll kill their birds in order to meet the new requirements?
With or without Prop 2, these birds would meet the same fate. Egg producers send millions of hens to slaughter every month and they’ll continue to do so. While chickens can live for ten years, egg producers consider them “spent” after less than two, a single laying cycle, and kill them at this young age. The nation’s humane slaughter standards do not even apply for these hens and other poultry.