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With New Egg Laws Coming, New Polling Shows Strong Statewide Support for Cage-Free Conversion

California consumers prefer hens not be caged, businesses sell only cage-free eggs

With California’s impending egg laws taking effect in January, The Humane Society of the United States released new polling indicating strong statewide support among Californians of all demographic groups and regions for a conversion to cage-free egg production. Voters approved Proposition 2 by a vote of 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent in November 2008. At the time, it received more votes than any ballot initiative in American history.

The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, suggests that support for Proposition 2 and a closely related law enacted in 2010 by the legislature has grown stronger and broader:

  • By more than an 8-to-1 margin (78 percent to 9 percent), Californians believe it’s more humane to raise hens in cage-free environments than to confine them in cages;
  • By a nearly 9-to-1 margin (62 percent to 7 percent), Californians would be more likely to “frequent a food business if it had a policy of selling exclusively cage-free eggs”;
  • By a more than 7-to-1 margin (79 percent to 11 percent), Californians believe the more than six years the state’s egg producers have had since the passage of Proposition 2 to change their production systems was “a reasonable amount of time” for them to make the shift; and
  • 58 percent of Californians would be willing to pay more for eggs to ensure they came from cage-free hens, more than twice the number of those (26 percent) who wouldn’t.

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The HSUS said: “Californians don’t want farm animals confined in cages that severely inhibit their movement and quality of life. With new farm animal laws soon to take effect, it is our hope that all food retailers in the state buy eggs only from farmers who use cage-free production systems. Cage-free certainly complies with Proposition 2, and it’s the right thing to do and a move broadly supported by consumers.”

As a result of California’s AB 1437, starting in January, all shell (whole) eggs sold in California must be produced in compliance with the standards for farm animal welfare set forth in Proposition 2: hens must have enough space to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. In addition to AB 1437, all eggs sold in California must also be consistent with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s egg safety rules, which have been in effect for decades, but were most recently amended in 2012. These two legal requirements are separate, and retailers must ensure their operations are compliant with both the egg safety regulations and the humane requirements of AB 1437.

In 2008, voters passed Proposition 2 with winning margins in 47 of California’s 58 counties, including urban, suburban and rural areas. The complement to that law, AB 1437, passed the Assembly by a vote of 65 to 9 and the state Senate by 23 to 7, and was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. With the AB 1437 deadline approaching, selling cage-free eggs ensures retailers are complying with the law and consumer demand.

The opponents of Proposition 2 and AB 1437 have filed lawsuits to block these humane laws and lost at every turn so far. Cage-free eggs are available and affordable. The egg industry’s own economic analysis shows that converting to cage-free egg production systems is feasible. Several companies, including Aramark, Sodexo and Compass Group, have already converted to 100 percent cage-free shell eggs in their California operations in order to comply with the upcoming rules. And many more companies are going cage-free for all their locations and products across the nation, including Unilever (Best Foods), Nestle, Marriott and Burger King.

Glen Hickman, CEO of major egg producer Hickman’s Family Farms, announced that his company is expanding its cage-free operations in part to satisfy the California demand. He states: “The demand for cage free and organic eggs continues to grow in all of our markets, but especially California where California consumers passed Proposition 2.”

The survey of 625 California adults statewide was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. from December 10 through December 16, 2014. Margin for error is plus or minus four percent.

Media Contact: Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 240-751-2669