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With the fabulous headline "Wish They All Could Be California Hens," the New York Times has a story this morning about how several states are facing off over California's legal mandates about how hens need to be treated by farmers.

It all goes back to a 2008 law passed by the California legislature that required more comfortable living conditions for egg-laying hens in the state. And, because in-state egg suppliers complained that the law could put them at a competitive and financial disadvantage, the law included a provision that all eggs sold in California had to come from hens treated in a similar manner.

"Those provisions," the Times writes, "as well as similar laws going into effect in Michigan, Oregon and Washington State and under consideration elsewhere, inspired a national proposal to require more space for laying hens across the country, but Congress dropped it from the recently passed farm bill. Lawmakers and some companies have been responding to consumer pressure (including from several colleges) for better treatment of animals raised for food."

But now, the story says, "The Missouri attorney general has filed a lawsuit to block the California egg rules, and at least three other states are considering doing the same. The beef and pork lobbies are also lining up against the California rules in an effort to prevent any new restrictions on raising livestock." The charge is that the California rules violate interstate commerce regulations, and the rationale behind the suit is that the rules will cost egg producers millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities, and will result in an increase in egg prices not just in California, but elsewhere in the US.
KC's View:
I'm no lawyer, so I have no idea how this will turn out. But as a consumer, I'm not sure that arguing for less than humane treatment of hens, or any other animal, is a sustainable business position.