Bills in Iowa would force grocery stores to sell eggs from caged hens

By on February 13, 2018 with 6 Comments

The HSUS works year-round to secure the passage of animal protection bills in state legislatures, and to block bad ones advanced by lobbyists for Big Ag. Some lawmakers in Iowa have recently introduced two retrograde bills that seek to reverse the good work done by animal protection advocates in improving conditions for hens in battery cages. Today, on the blog, I have asked HSUS Midwestern Regional Director Anne Sterling to share her perspective on these bills that would force grocery stores to sell eggs from caged hens.

HSUS Midwestern Regional Director Anne Sterling

The factory farm lobby has reached a new low. Agribusiness is rushing two awful bills — HSB 623 and SF 2242 — quietly through the Iowa legislature, aimed at undoing much of the progress the animal protection movement has achieved for chickens. This bizarre legislation would actually force many grocery stores to sell a product that businesses and consumers are increasingly rejecting: eggs from caged hens.

Few industrial practices cause more animal suffering than the egg industry’s use of battery cages. In these barren wire cages, each hen is forced to spend her entire life in a space that’s smaller than the dimensions of an iPad. Virtually unable to move, the hens can’t engage in almost any of their natural behaviors, such as perching, nesting, foraging, or even walking more than a few steps. Caged chickens often suffer from bone fractures, feather loss, and metabolic disease; some hens even become caught in the wire and die of dehydration and starvation, unable to reach water or food that’s just inches away from them.

Virtually every major food retailer has adopted policies requiring explicitly cage-free conditions, a vast improvement over cage confinement. These companies are simply listening to their customers, who are rightly concerned about the enormous animal welfare and food safety problems these cages cause. Walmart, Costco, and Dollar Tree are among more than 200 companies that are making the transition to cage-free. But instead of heeding the market’s demands, lobbyists for caged-egg producers want to make these transitions to cage-free illegal, and force retailers to sell eggs from caged hens under threat of financial penalty.

Not only would these dangerous bills perpetuate the use of cruel and inhumane battery cages, but they would undoubtedly increase food safety risks for Iowa families. More than a dozen studies have shown that caging hens results in higher rates of the harmful pathogen salmonella. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that 79,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with salmonella. Even the industry admits to the problem: one major trade publication states bluntly “Salmonella thrives in cage housing.”

The HSUS supports independent family farmers across Iowa and the rest of the country who work hard to treat their animals with greater decency; and, in fact, many of these farmers have converted to cage-free systems, or have never used cages in the first place. Consumers increasingly want to support them as well, yet this legislation would move the state of Iowa in the opposite direction of consumer demand.

In an ironic twist, factory farming corporations try to stop any regulation of their cruelty by saying that the “free market should decide.” But now that the free market, state legislatures, and courts are deciding against the worst factory farming practices, the corporations are changing their tune and demanding that the government bail them out, taking market share away from cage-free farmers.

It’s a matter of nonpartisan agreement that the government has at least a minimum role in regulating commerce to protect people and animals. But the government should never force private businesses to sell a product that both businesses and consumers reject as unsafe and unethical. Please join us in fighting back against these horrible bills by sharing this action alert with your friends and family in Iowa.

Farm Animals, Humane Economy, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Patricia Fleischer says:

    We are one of the sickest countries on this planet, and eating sick meat isn’t helping these statistics. I last heard that 49 other countries have longer life expectancy than the US. Every time I see the chickens running free outside in the Caribbean (as shown in House Hunters International) I feel for the injustices of our innocent chickens (alias sentient being). I am trying to get healthy. I had a house guest for awhile who has no interest in holistic health. Even when I served organic chicken – he would not eat it. He had been part of the chicken industry – and saw the cruelty, and the disgusting treatments. Even the organic chickens he said was just a scam – that they were not getting any better treatment. We as a country are in trouble and becoming a kinder, gentler nation will become part of our healing.

    • carol says:

      I agree, it is all about money…how to make more money with no regard to the suffering of these animals. Only We the People can change this and we must get the message out as much as we can.

    • Penelope Copeland says:

      Drop your friend. He is part of the problem. I love hens. They are sensitive beings, and the way they are treated – hens, cows, pigs, piglets, baby cows, dogs in Korea and China – makes me sick to the stomach. I realise one cannot stop people from eating meat, but AT LEAST euthanize them humanely. They have as much right to live on this Planet as we do.

  2. Kathy says:

    I don’t by any eggs but cage free. I will stop if Iowa passes this bill. Greed should have no place in the care of animals. Wake up Iowa.

    • Lynn Gallagher says:

      Industrial egg production is the worst, but basically all of the chicks come from huge hatcheries where all of the male chicks are killed. This is a video of an Iowa hatchery :–faib7to
      The chicks are treated like objects.
      And please learn more about what cage free means. You obviously care about the treatment of the animals because you are trying to avoid the worst. Please consider not eating eggs at all.
      This is a great place to learn about chickens etc:

  3. Don says:

    ‘cage free’ and ‘free range’ isn’t very meaningful when it comes to chickens.

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