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California Farmers Markets Urged to Meet Consumer Concerns, Adopt Cage-Free Policy for Egg Vendors

In Wake of Egg Recall, Letters Sent to 258 Farmers Market Managers

Thursday, The Humane Society of the United States mailed letters to all of the managers on the state’s list of certified farmers markets requesting that they adopt policies to prohibit the sale of eggs from caged hens.

“Shoppers often make the false assumption that eggs sold at the farmers market do not come from factory farming operations employing the same cage confinement practices as farms involved in the recent egg recall – the largest in U.S. history,” said HSUS California State Director Jennifer Fearing. “To increase food safety, improve animal welfare, and to meet the expectations of their consumers, we hope California’s farmers markets will stop allowing their well-earned ‘halo effect’ to extend to companies and products that don’t deserve it.”

Throughout California, many factory farms are farmers market vendors – oftentimes selling eggs produced from hens kept in cramped cages. The letters point out, “Not only is this intensive confinement inhumane and unsustainable, it also poses a real threat to food safety. Cramming birds into cages exacerbates the risk of Salmonella contamination. In fact, every one of the last ten studies comparing cage to cage-free systems found higher Salmonella rates in cage systems, including a 2010 study that found 20 times greater odds of Salmonella infection in caged flocks.”

These suppliers confine hens into cages so small they can't even spread their wings, let alone nest, dust bathe, perch, forage or walk.

In 2008, California voters overwhelmingly passed the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (Prop 2) making it a criminal offense to confine hens in cages by 2015. California recently extended this requirement to all eggs sold in the state. Hundreds of California restaurants along with dozens of major companies like Burger King, Subway, and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise are already using cage-free eggs. Furthermore, national and local retailers such as Whole Foods Market, Andronico’s, New Leaf Markets, Jimbo’s Naturally, Berkeley Bowl and many others have made a commitment to only sell cage-free eggs.

Multiple undercover investigations at California egg factory farms revealed rampant animal abuse and food safety concerns, such as live birds forced to live on top of mummified bird carcasses rotting in cages. These conditions were similar to those that the FDA found at Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, the companies at the center of the current egg recall.


  • U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens (including 19 million in California) in barren cages so small, they can’t even spread their wings. Extensive scientific research confirms this causes suffering.
  • Cage-free hens generally have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens. Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and may have parts of their beaks cut off, but they can walk, spread their wings, and lay their eggs in nests—all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into cages.
  • Simply by switching to cage-free housing systems, the egg industry may be able to halve the risk of Salmonella for the American public, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization—backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty—on the web at humanesociety.org.