The United Egg Producers Board of Directors and the Humane Society of the United States reached an agreement this week to jointly petition the government for federal legislation to transition the industry from a conventional cage egg production business to enriched colony cage housing. Their goal is to have the law in place by June 30, 2012 and the transition fully implemented by December 31, 2029.
The standards specify cage space, hen house comfort levels, beak trimming, feeding and watering practices, molting without feed withdrawal, on-farm euthanasia and transportation and are incorporated into UEP's animal welfare program, "UEP Certified."
As part of the agreement, HSUS and UEP said they will not "initiate, fund or support" any ballot initiatives or local or state legislation that would define hen space, and they will not "initiate, fund or support" investigation of or litigation against each other or UEP members.
Talks between the two parties started after HSUS said it recognized that there were benefits to colonies, reversing a position that it only supported cage-free egg production systems.
National Pork Producers Council President Doug Wolf says the pork industry is committed to animal well-being, but legislation pre-empting state laws on egg production would set a dangerous precedent.
Wolf says NPPC is concerned a one-size-fits-all approach will take away producers' freedom to operate in a way that's best for their animals, make it difficult to respond to consumer demands, raise retail meat prices, devastate niche producers and redirect valuable resources from enhancing food safety to regulating production practices for reasons other than public health and welfare.
NPPC also is concerned about the uncertainty such legislation would generate among U.S. pork producers. Wolf says the pork industry has adopted programs that educate and certify producers in best practices under NPPC's We Care principles. He says pork producers have practiced these principles for decades because it's the right thing to do.