If you’ve bought eggs lately, you’ve no doubt noticed they’ve become a bit more expensive. What’s worse, prices will likely only continue to rise. And no matter where you live, the blame all points back to one state: California.
On January 1 of this year, California’s Proposition 2 went into effect, forcing egg producers to adopt costly new standards for their operations. At the urging of animal liberation groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), voters passed Prop 2 in 2008 to impose new allegedly “humane” mandates on egg producers. It was widely assumed that the law required egg producers to use larger cages in their operations—Prop 2 only made general requirements but didn’t mandate a specific space requirement. Many farmers invested heavily in revamping their operations to be in accordance with state regulations requiring hens to be housed in cages at least 116 square inches in size.
A 2010 companion measure went into effect simultaneously, extending Prop 2’s cage requirements to all out-of-state egg producers that wish to sell their products in the nation’s most populous state as well. Thus, all Americans are forced to pay for a measure passed in a single state.
Now that the laws have been implemented, however, HSUS is throwing its weight into arguing that producers should use no cages at all—just to be totally sure they comply with the law. If HSUS’s argument is successful, expect prices to rise even further.
All this has caused egg prices in California to jump 66% higher than in other parts of the West, while wholesale egg prices jumped 35% in the lead up to Prop 2’s implementation.
Worst of all, the price increases resulting from Prop 2 and its companion measure will cause the greatest harm to the most disadvantaged segments of society. As a recent report from Iowa State University points out, low-income individuals will be disproportionately harmed by the legislation, as they often rely on eggs as an affordable protein substitute in lieu of pricier meat-based options.
What’s more, these measures were sold to Californians as a more humane way of raising hens or “food safety.” However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cage-free operations have higher rates of internal parasites and hen mortalities than traditional cage systems. Manure management may also not be as advanced in cage-free systems.
But when you’re a group of animal liberation extremists who think ice cream is a form of animal cruelty, caring about low-income Americans won’t take precedence over your ideology.