Egg Producer Attempts to Subvert Prop 2

What Michael Jordan was to basketball, egg producers are to despicably villainous behavior. They simply have astonishing gifts in this respect that nobody can match. Case in point: one California egg company’s response to Prop 2.

Nearly a year ago, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 2. Among other things, the measure’s language clearly banned battery cages and the close confinement of layer hens. In fact, the language of the measure was so tough that egg industry opponents were claiming it would ban even cage-free operations.

But now a California egg company, J.S. West & Co., has announced plans to build a $3.2 million “colony cage” operation. Colony cages are a step up from battery cages, since they offer perches and nesting boxes, and roughly double the tiny amount of space given to each hen. But the primary cruelties of battery cages remain unaddressed. The flooring for these cages is identical to that of a battery cage; meaning the birds spend huge amounts of time standing on wire, and sleeping pressed against it. Worse, these proposed new cages will still offer less than one square foot per bird. You can forget about the birds having room to spread their wings, as Prop 2 requires.

The President of JS West offers this explanation for the new facility:

What we’re trying to do is … define what’s going to be allowed … It’s my intention to convert everything (to enriched colony cages) once we have a clear understanding that this is OK.

Translation: What we’re trying to do is provide the bare minimum permissible welfare increases for the birds. If we can ram this through and somehow get one of these marginal facilities accepted, it will provide precedent that will let egg producers throughout the entire state ignore Prop 2′s regulations and continue the worst factory farm abuses.

The economics of factory farming are such that producers seek to gain a competitive edge by cutting every possible corner when it comes to animal welfare. As I’ve written in Meat Market, this is an industry in which the very people least worthy of being entrusted with an animals’ care are given the power to dictate the fate of millions.

It’s exceedingly unlikely that JS West will be permitted to operate this facility past Prop 2′s enactment in 2015. It’s all basically a $3.2 million long-shot gamble, done with the hope that it can save the industry from having to transform itself in ways that would substantially reduce animal cruelty.

So all of this primarily serves as a helpful reminder that America’s egg industry is run by a pack of total bastards. (Links via Shapiro.) Coverage in: the Sac Bee, the Central Valley Business Times, the Modesto Bee.