Egg Farmers Clucking at Cage Ban

HARTFORD - Connecticut egg farmers warned Friday that they could be put out of business if state lawmakers ban cages for hens.
calendar icon 12 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

But the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States charged that factory-farming tactics that put as many as nine hens in a living space no bigger than a sheet of newspaper are wrong and are being phased out in the European Union.

During a daylong public hearing, members of the General Assembly's Environment Committee on Friday seemed conflicted over the economic and moral aspects of the legislation, which was opposed by state Agriculture Commissioner F. Philip Prelli.

Prelli said there's no scientific evidence that says cage-free hens lead better lives than those in cages, where state agriculture inspectors can have an easier time monitoring their condition, and cages keep chicken manure off the eggs.

"The concept of housing laying hens in cages is necessarily inhumane is based on conjecture and not supported by scientific evidence," Prelli said. "Hens that are contented & tend to lay more eggs, and in all the studies we're seen, caged hens lay more eggs than free-roving hens. So to say they're not content is incorrect."

"Connecticut consumers should be able to make their own choices in purchasing food products," Prelli said. "If chickens weren't, in effect — I don't want to say happy — but if they weren't somewhat satisfied in the conditions they were in, they wouldn't lay eggs."

Prelli said that if the egg industry were to end, the economic ripple effect, according to a 2002 study, would be more than $161 million, including $90 million in direct effects and $71 million in indirect losses including a spillover into the dairy industry.

The legislation would also prohibit the state Department of Administrative Services from buying eggs from farms that use cages. "There's virtually no commercial cage-free layer production in Connecticut," Prelli said.


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