Oregon SB 805 is a formerly HSUS-backed bill that, as introduced, would have forced egg producers to use cage free facilities by 2019. It has since been amended, and in its current version, egg facilities would switch from battery cages (three to four square feet per cage) to enriched colony housing (48 square feet per cage) by 2026.
The amended bill is a proposal that greatly improves the welfare of hens, is based upon science and sound animal care practices, and is supported by NAIA, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, the Oregon Humane Society, the American Humane Association, and virtually all of the state's egg farmers. Naturally, HSUS is outraged. Quoth their minion:
Paul Shapiro, a spokesman for the Human Society of the United States, said the proposed amendments "really just give the illusion of reform." The original language, he told the committee, was modest enough.
Modest enough for what? To drive Oregon's egg farmers out of business? Reduce or eliminate the consumption of eggs* by those who can no longer afford them?
Make no mistake, Paul Shapiro's "modest enough" version of the bill would cost Oregon's egg farmers $100-130 million over the course of seven years, drive many of the state's egg farmers out of business and significantly raise the price of eggs for consumers.
The amended version of the bill, on the other hand, will cost Oregon's egg farmers $50-65 million over the course of fifteen years, while adding a nickel -- maybe a dime -- to the price of a dozen eggs.
More importantly, the changes in the amended bill mandate humane changes that are supported by research and people who have actual hands-on knowledge of hens -- not activist campaigns -- and nudges Oregon's egg farms in a direction that puts them at the forefront of progressive farming practices... rather than out of business.
Sorry HSUS, but if $65 million willingly spent by Oregon's egg farmers doesn't show an aggressive commitment to positive change and modernization, if that's just "too modest" for you, I can only assume your intentions have less to do with improving the industry than eliminating it.
For a quick rundown on the welfare concerns addressed by enriched colony housing:
- They offer up to three times as much space as in current housing
- They allow hens access to perform natural behaviors, such as scratching and perching -- there are even private nesting areas (hey, wouldn't you want a little privacy?)
- The hens are kept in more sanitary conditions than those provided by older traditional units or cage-free facilities (this means fewer incidents of e coli infections, bumblefoot, etc.)
"Enriched colony housing has been widely adopted in the EU, and the egg farmers there love it. Pressure from activist groups has virtually gone away because there's simply no way to attack egg farms without coming off like an extremist," says Willamette Egg Farm's Greg Satrum.
"Many people are confused by the 116 square inch requirement. That is not a cage size! It is the average space allotment per hen in a 48 square foot pen. The hens don't have to stand on a piece of paper as HSUS implies. Hens are free to move about the entire pen. They can stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their wings."
"This is the direction [American] egg farmers are already moving in. The idea that farmers are resistant to change is a fallacy: facilities from just 20 years ago are already outdated; the ones that are being built today are doing things we wouldn't have dreamed of back then."
For more information on Enriched Colony Housing, click here.
For a United Egg Producer report on the economic impact of banning cage egg production, click here.
*Hmm... reduce or eliminate the eating of eggs? I think we might be onto something here. But don't take our word for it, take HSUS's!