On January 1, 2015 a new regulation, Proposition 2, became law in California. Also known as the Standards for Confining Farm Animals initiative, Prop 2 requires that calves, pregnant sows and egg laying hens have enough room in their cages to turn freely, stand up, lie down and (in the hens’ case) spread their wings.
The regulation passed with 63% votes in favor, and before you get riled up and think “Who in the world would vote against this?!” this was the most votes in favor on a ballot initiative in U.S. history. This is a huge step in the right direction, representing a large part of the country that cares about the farm animals that provide for us.
Since the passing of Prop 2, the California Department of Agriculture enacted the California Shell Egg Food Safety requirements, that went into effect on January 1, 2015, and requires that each laying hen be provided with at least 116sq.in of space.
Contentiously, as far as the Big Egg companies were concerned, this law applies to any eggs to be sold in The Golden State, not just those laid there, so egg farms the country over are begrudgingly having to give their hens just a little more space.
To give you a sense of how big this new and improved space is, it’s an area just slightly bigger than a piece of printer paper. That may not seem much to you and I, but the lawmakers of California have calculated that that’s enough space for a caged hen to be able to stand up, turn around, lie down and extend her wings. But no more.
Regardless of how small this space really is, this is at least a move in the right direction for the welfare of farm animals and we can’t help but feel relieved to be seeing positive change.
Of course, here at Vital Farms, each of our girls gets a minimum of 15,552 sq. in. outdoors, on grass – so close to 150 times what their caged California sisters get. Which shows that humane farming is feasible, and we can’t wait for every egg farm in the nation to follow suit. “We can do it, so can you!”
As with any new law, there was a lot of squabbling over why this new improvement would be a good (or bad) idea.
Some animal rights activists were saying that this law doesn’t improve the lives of farm animals, it just makes people feel better about eating them. But these claims are preposterous. If we do not move in the right direction, we are standing still, and there is no progress in standing still.
As for the positives (there are a lot!) the one that was focused on, other than humane treatment, was the health benefits.
When multiple hens are put in a tiny area, where they cannot act as nature intended, their immune systems are compromised, which creates a much higher risk for developing salmonella.
The salmonella bacteria develops in the intestines of a hen and can be spread through fecal matter. The bacteria spreads to the eggs that the hen’s lay by passing the infection to the ovaries, which contaminates the egg at the beginning of production.
And, not to mention, battery cages in barns are a perfect place for an infestation of unwanted pests (rats, flies, etc.), that can carry this food borne disease (and plenty others!)
So, in short – more space = less chance of spreading salmonella.
And most importantly, in our eyes – these hens are living creatures that deserve to be treated with care and respect. They are not machines, and we should not treat them as such. It’s important to remind everyone: approximately 94% of eggs consumed in the United States are laid by battery caged hens.
Besides an improvement in space requirement, the passing and implementation of Proposition 2 will result in an increase in price for factory farmed eggs – as to help the egg producers with the costs of building bigger buildings that are required to meet these standards. Many of these producers claim spending upwards of 3 to 5 million dollars on improving just a few facilities.
But this will in no way effect the cost of our pasture-raised eggs. *sigh of relief*
And don’t believe all that hubbub about there being no nutritional difference between factory farmed and pasture-raised eggs (even from reputable sources – we’re looking at you, TIME). The difference is clear – in taste, in shell strength and in those beautiful orange yolks.
We’re hoping for more steps (and leaps and bounds) in the right direction, but for now we can only hope that more egg-eating folks out there educate themselves on the benefits of food produced by humanely raised farm animals.
And when you purchase Vital Farms pasture-raised eggs, know that you’re getting a quality source of protein from happy, healthy hens.
Altogether now: Girls on grass! Let them eat bugs!