WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 – A new survey indicates that American consumers overwhelmingly support national legislation requiring egg producers to switch to enriched cages – a move endorsed by the United Egg Producers (UEP) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Enriched cages provide egg-laying hens nearly double the amount of space they currently have in conventional cages, plus provide perches, nest boxes, and scratch pads which allow the hens to exhibit their natural behaviors.
Consumers said they would support federal legislation that would transition egg production from the existing conventional cages used for egg-laying hens to enriched cages by a margin of 4-to-1.
Furthermore, consumers said that federal legislation was preferable to a patchwork of state legislation by a margin of 2-to-1.
As a result of state legislative efforts pushed by HSUS, everal states already have established, or are in the process of establishing, different laws regarding the housing and sale of eggs in each of their states – creating costly and sometimes confusing requirements for egg producers, many of which sell eggs across state lines.
The UEP struck a compromise deal last year with HSUS in which the animal rights organization would stop pursuing state by state regulations and the two organizations would jointly seek a federal solution. The HSUS also agreed to drop demands for “cage free” egg production.
“This is legislation that egg farmers and consumers overwhelmingly support” said David Lathem, a Georgia egg farmer and chairman of UEP.
However, some egg producers and national pork and cattle groups remain adamantly opposed to enactment of federal legislation, fearing that it would require costly new investments and give HSUS an opportunity to push for federal legislation on other species.
The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, H.R. 3798, introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., last week, will require egg producers to essentially double the space allotted per hen and make other important animal welfare improvements.
Consumers support the transition to enriched cages for egg production by a margin of 12-to-1, according to the survey. Consumers also said that the two most important groups to support this transition outlined in the federal legislation (H.R. 3798) to enriched cages are UEP and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), both of which support the bill, as do more than 11 egg and farm groups, 10 animal protection groups, and the National Consumers League. Fifty-nine percent of consumers said they would be “more supportive” if they knew that UEP and HSUS supported such legislation; Only 1 percent said they would be more opposed.
The survey was fielded by an independent research group, Bantam, which conducted two nationwide surveys, of 1,000 registered voters each, December 27, 2011 through January 20, 2012. The first survey investigated consumer support for enriched cages, the second survey investigated consumer support for the federal legislation.
The consumer survey was commissioned by United Egg Producers which represents the majority of egg farmers in the U.S. and which supports the federal legislation. However, UEP says the survey’s sponsorship was anonymous so as to not bias any of the 2,000 respondents, all of whom were registered voters.
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