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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Egg Bill Helps Consumers

It’s a rare thing in Washington when two enemies lay down their swords and work together to find a way forward. The agreement between The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers to improve the treatment of the nation’s 280 million egg-laying hens is gaining support in Congress, and new co-sponsors are signing onto H.R. 3798 every week. The legislation, strongly supported by HSLF, has been endorsed by a wide range of diverse groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Pathologists, the Consumer Federation of America, state egg and poultry associations, local humane societies, and hundreds of family farmers.

The National Consumers League is one of the organizations backing the bill, and I asked the group’s executive director, Sally Greenberg, to share her thoughts in a guest blog. Here’s what she had to say about the legislation:

As the nation’s pioneer consumer group, the National Consumers League has been working on behalf of consumers since 1899. Indeed, NCL was involved in the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Additionally, we have worked to ensure that food is labeled honestly and clearly. Because we are so passionate about food safety and labeling, we are pleased to support a bill recently introduced in Congress called The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012. This bill has many provisions that are good news for consumers.
HenThe legislation is the result of a very admirable agreement between The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers. This landmark agreement between animal protection activists and the egg industry is supported by both Democrats and Republicans and would modernize the egg industry. It would phase in larger, enriched colony cages over the course of fifteen years. These cages, which give each hen nearly twice as much space as current battery cages, would allow hens to engage in natural behaviors, such as nesting.  

These larger cages are good news for two reasons. The first is a food safety issue. When hens are stressed, they have higher rates of diseases like Salmonella and Campylobacter, two common foodborne illnesses. These diseases are then spread to human beings through the eggs the hens produce. Cage-free hens have been shown to have lower rates of disease. This is due to several factors, including lower levels of stress and less crowding. It is likely that larger enriched cages will confer similar benefits, also reducing the rate of foodborne illness. 

The second issue is one of animal welfare. Bigger cages mean a better, less stressful life for the hens. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the welfare of the animals that produce their food and this bill would ensure a better life for laying hens. 

The other very important provision in this bill involves labeling. If the bill is adopted—and given its bipartisan support we fully expect it to be—egg cartons will have to bear a label describing the conditions under which the eggs were laid. This will allow consumers to choose between battery cage, enriched cage, and cage-free eggs. Any measure which empowers consumers by giving them more information to make choices is powerful and important. 

NCL is proud to stand with The Humane Society of the United States in support of this bill and we encourage you to support it as well by asking your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to sign on as co-sponsors if they haven't already. The passage of this legislation will ensure greater protections for consumers and the hens that produce their food. This bill is truly a win-win.  



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