Washington state last week signed into law a bill to phase out eggs that are not “cage-free” by 2023.
The move has been touted as a step forward for animal welfare and food safety.
The measure is nearly a carbon copy of a law that passed in California in 2018. Massachusetts has imposed a similar restriction.
The rules would eliminate battery cages, which immobilize birds in tiny cages, causing distress and injury to the animals.
But a close look at the language of the bill shows that the egg industry had a big influence on the bill’s passage.
The two bills use definitions of “cage-free” drafted by the industry group United Egg Producers in 2017.
The standards require at least 1 square foot of space per laying hen, room to roam around and do normal chicken things like spreading wings, nesting, scratching and bathing in dust.
Animal welfare advocates say so-called cage-free methods are still not good for the health of the birds.
An investigation from the New Food Economy website found that a key lobbyist who pushed the Washington legislation was paid by a trade group called Food Northwest, which represents egg farmers and other producers in the state.
Consumers have pressured egg producers to reform their animal welfare practices, and have shown that they will pay premium prices for products that are raised humanely.
Washington’s cage-free bill is the first of its kind to be passed by the legislature instead of by direct ballot.
- Washington Passed A Cage-Free Egg Bill In The Name Of Animal Welfare. Why Are The Egg Industry’s Fingerprints All Over It? (The New Food Economy)
- Egg-Laying Hens Live In Horrific Conditions. Washington State Just Passed A Law To Change That. (Vox)
- Washington State Enacts Cage-Free Egg Law (Feedstuffs)