In an important and encouraging advance for the protection of farm animals, Arizona has moved to ban cruel cages for egg-laying hens and ensure that all eggs produced and/or sold in the state are cage-free. The regulations promulgated by the Arizona Department of Agriculture guarantee that over 7 million chickens laying eggs for the Arizona marketplace each year will never know the pain and suffering of being confined in a tiny cage.
With the adoption of these regulations, Arizona joins California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in committing to outlaw the use of cages for chickens.
I could not be prouder of the work of our state affairs, animal protection law and farm animal protection teams, whose dedication and efforts have made these tangible victories possible in state after state. This is part of a comprehensive strategy that has dramatically reshaped the egg industry in less than a decade.
In addition to our work on state-level legislation and regulatory reform, the HSUS has also been pressing the United States’ largest food companies to go cage-free for their egg supply. Last month, for example, we worked with The Cheesecake Factory to announce that it will reach its 100% cage-free goal in the U.S. and Canada by year’s end—three years ahead of its 2025 deadline.
American consumers have helped our momentum by making their preference for cage-free eggs clear, and a once-recalcitrant industry is now moving to meet that demand in the marketplace.
A little over a decade ago, the percentage of egg-laying chickens raised in cage-free environments in the United States was in the low single digits. Now, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around 34% of egg-laying chickens are living in cage-free operations. That is the largest percentage of cage-free birds in the egg industry since caging became the norm. It represents more than 100 million chickens annually who are living cage-free rather than caged because of our efforts.
Why does this matter so much? The standard in the egg industry is to lock chickens in tiny, wire cages that are so small the birds can’t even spread their wings. Each bird lives her whole life on a space no larger than the screen of an iPad. But with every passing day, we’re making gains in our campaign to end this abhorrent treatment of farm animals, and we’re confident that we can soon bring it to an end.
Despite continuing attempts by some in the meat industry to thwart our progress— most notably in the current attempt to halt implementation of California’s Proposition 12 —we’re still securing major gains for farm animals. The success in Arizona is just the most recent to demonstrate that humane advocates and the agricultural community can find common ground to advance animal welfare and create a framework for producers to thrive in the cage-free future we’re forging.
The future is undoubtedly going to be cage-free, but we’re trying to get there as soon as possible to spare billions of animals from miserable lives locked away in tiny cages. Arizona’s move brings us a little closer to that goal and is cause for celebration. Just as importantly, it puts more air under our wings and inspires us to keep going in our broader work to make this world a better one not just for farm animals, but for all animals who are deserving of our protection.