Egg farmers have their hands full…
From reduced flock sizes to capital outlays on new cages, egg producers have their hands full these days – but not necessarily their wallets. Per the mandate of Prop 2, the deadline of which has come and gone, farmers of egg-laying hens had two options: build bigger cages for their chickens in the name of humane treatment (or better yet, get rid of the cages all together!), or stop selling their shelled eggs to the state of California.
Paying nearly double the price per carton of eggs
The supermarkets know how important it is to keep their shelves stocked with fresh eggs, even if it means paying nearly double the price per carton of eggs. The consumers will have to shell out just as much if they want to continue eating eggs as a staple of their diet. The farmers know this, too, which is why many of them have invested thousands, even millions, into doubling the sizes of their chicken coops in compliance with Prop 2. Now, when consumers buy eggs at the grocery store, they’ll see a distinct stamp saying those eggs are CA SEFS Compliant, or California Shell Egg Food Safety Compliant, according to NPR.
Egg shortage in the state
The farmers who chose not to comply – mainly because they couldn’t afford to – can no longer sell their eggs to California. Analysts say this could lead to an egg shortage in the state because it’s not getting the usual influx of eggs as it’s used to. This has ruffled feathers for farmers in several states. In fact, last year six states – Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky and Iowa – filed lawsuits against CA for its seeming violation of the commerce clause within the U.S. Constitution which stipulates that one state can’t force regulations on another. Those lawsuits were shot down in October, but that hasn’t stopped those states from continuing their crusade.
Those farmers who could afford to comply did so at the hands of drastic changes, such as a reduction in the flock size where they use fewer chickens in an attempt to save money. This naturally translates to lower output, yet higher costs in terms of laborer costs. Other egg producers have decided to comply fully and outfit their farms with the necessary cage sizes to comply with Prop 2 and still sell their eggs to CA. Other egg producers have decided to take it one step further: building free-range houses or enriched cages complete with perches and enclosures for laying eggs in peace.
The bottom line is that California is experiencing record declines in its egg industry, with the number of egg-laying hens decreasing by nearly 25 percent just in the last two years. Conversely, egg production is experiencing a boon in the rest of the country where the requirements aren’t quite as stringent. However, the skyrocketing price of eggs nearly everywhere may spur more farmers to expand and construct bigger hen houses to meet the demand.