Association California Egg Farmers
Committed to Cage-Free

Facts about California Eggs

Egg Production Today

Under Proposition 2 voted into law in 2008, California egg farmers are not allowed to use conventional cages to house their egg-producing hens.  Instead, hens are housed in two different kinds of systems, both designed to provide them with more space.


The Transition to Cage-Free

California egg farmers are transitioning their operations so they are 100% cage-free by 2025. In the meantime, systems known as "colony cages" are being used as a temporary solution while farmers transition their hen houses to be fully cage-free. 

The official definition of these systems is as follows:

Cage-Free – An indoor or outdoor controlled environment for egg-laying hens where they are free to roam unrestricted; are provided enrichments that allow them to exhibit natural behaviors including, at a minimum, scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing areas.

Colony Cages – A production system that provides adequate space for birds to lie down, stand up, turn around freely and fully extend both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens for all or the majority of any day.

You can learn more about colony cages and the transition to cage-free by watching the following videos.

Enhanced Colony System

Caged to Cage Free

Eggs by the Numbers

California Consumes a Lot of Eggs

California's state population of 40 million residents consume about 300 eggs per year. Typically, one hen produces the amount of eggs one person consumes in a year.

Thus, 40 million hens are needed to meet California's demand for eggs.

California Egg Production

In 2018, California egg farmers are estimated to house 13.7 million hens producing 3.9 billion eggs making California the 7th largest producer of eggs in the U.S.


California Cage-Free Egg timeline


California egg farmers are transitioning a portion of their hens to cage-free every year. They are on track for 100% compliance with the law on the following time-line.

Why the Association of California Egg Farmers opposes Proposition 12

California's egg farmers support cage-free in a timely manner as do grocery stores and restaurants who are working to implement cage free production by 2025. Why 2025? Because it is the date agreed upon by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the food industry to exclusively supply 100% cage-free eggs in California.

We support the orderly transition to cage-free eggs as does most of the nation's food, retail, hospitality, foodservice and food manufacturing businesses. In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 72% of these businesses have already committed to serve and sell cage-free eggs by 2025.

Now—despite the commitments to go cage-free by the nation's food, retail, hospitality, foodservice and food manufacturing businesses—HSUS has written Proposition 12 to require full compliance by the end of 2021 and, in doing so, is reneging on its own agreement with food retail, hospitality, foodservice and food manufacturing businesses. To stay in business, California's egg farmers were forced to spend more than $250 million dollars to convert their hen housing systems to comply with Proposition 2 since it passed in 2008. Now with Proposition 12, HSUS is demanding even more restrictions on egg farmers in the coming years. Once again, a poorly written initiative by HSUS could result in supply disruptions, price spikes and a shortage of eggs for sale.  

Why Should You Care?

If Proposition 12 passes, all eggs produced or sold in California must be cage-free eggs by 2021.  This change in deadline, 2025 to 2021, means consumers could experience higher priced eggs making a popular, high-quality protein too expensive for many people. The California egg farmers who remain in business will be required to accelerate their business plans, seek construction loans, obtain permits and spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars in just 36 months to avoid severe criminal penalties. Regulators will be required to adjust their focus from food safety to become the "meat police."  Who is going to pay for it?  You and all California consumers. 

Although California egg farmers are transitioning to cage-free as quickly as possible, it's estimated that 35% of the eggs produced in California will not be cage-free by 2021. According to an economic study, a reduction in egg supplies of this magnitude occurred back in 2015 when Proposition 2 became law. It is very likely that Californian egg consumers will experience a similar price hike in 2021 should Proposition 12 become law.

Accelerating the deadline to transition to cage free production is not necessary and would punish both egg farmers and consumers. California egg farmers are simply asking that they be allowed to deliver on their commitment to be 100% cage-free by 2025.  Efforts are well underway which will provide cage-free eggs in an orderly manner which will likely minimize any price spikes or market disruptions.


Media

  • Sep. 21, 2018 San Francisco Chronicle

    Editorial: The Chronicle recommends no on California Prop. 12

    The emotional appeal of an initiative to outlaw keeping millions of egg-laying hens in cramped cages stacked three high compelled two-thirds of California voters to make Proposition 2 the law of the land in 2008. Now the proponents, this time joined by some in the egg industry, are back with Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative.

    Read more

    As the earlier measure didn't specify exact dimensions for housing chickens, this initiative establishes a standard of a square foot per hen and gives farmers until 2021 to adapt their operations, according to Prop. 12 proponent Jeff Peterson, who manages an egg farming operation in the Central Valley.

    It requires the state to enforce the requirements and gives private citizens legal standing to claim a farmer isn't meeting the standard. And it bans the sale of eggs, as well as veal and pork, that don't meet the standards for animal confinement.

    The first proposition played on Californians' concerns about humane treatment after egg farmers began housing their chickens in "battery cages," vast industrial arrays of 18-by-20-inch cages, with 10 or 11 hens squeezed into each. That measure merely stated that each chicken be able to "extend its limbs fully and turn around freely." The animal welfare movement contended that meant space equivalent to the bird's wingspan — 2 to 3 square feet — but the state Department of Food and Agriculture interpreted it as less than a square foot.

    By the time the initial proposition went into effect in 2015, concerns about transmitting salmonella already had egg farmers moving away from battery cages and toward operations that keep hens crowded into enormous "cage-free" barns.

    Since Prop. 2's passage, California egg production has dropped significantly and egg prices have risen by 33 percent, according to the California Farm Bureau. The new measure is also an effective fundraising issue for the primary proponent, the Humane Society of the United States.

    The Chronicle recommended a "no" vote on the first proposition, saying the ballot box is not the place to regulate this aspect of California agriculture. That is also true this time, and voters should reject Prop. 12.

    This commentary is from The Chronicle's editorial board. We invite you to express your views

  • The Sacramento Bee

    Proposition 12

    Voters should reject Proposition 12, which would ban the sale of eggs, uncooked pork and veal from farms that don't meet new space requirements for hens, pigs and calves. The measure would build on Proposition 2, which voters approved in 2008 to set size restrictions for confinement pens based on animal behavior. 

    Read more

    Proposition 12 would make those restrictions more clear by setting a specific number of square feet for confinement. But it is far from clear whether the sizes are adequate. 

    While the Humane Society certainly thinks so and is backing the measure, several animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are opposing it, insisting that Proposition 12 would keep hens in "horrific" multi-level, cage-free, factory farms

    If approved, the measure also could cost the state as much as $10 million a year to enforce, and millions of dollars more per year in lost tax revenues from farm businesses, according to the LAO. Several farm groups, including the Association of California Egg Farmers and National Pork Producers Council, also are against the measure.

    This is one more example of an issue that should have been resolved in the Legislature, not foisted upon voters through a ballot initiative.

  • The Press Democrat

    PD Editorial: No on Prop 12: Let consumers choose their eggs

    Proposition 12 on the Nov. 6 ballot may look familiar to voters. The initiative, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, promises better conditions for certain farm animals. So did Proposition 2, another Humane Society-sponsored initiative. Voters approved Proposition 2 in 2008, but they should think twice about Proposition 12.

    Read more

    To be clear, no rational person favors cruelty to animals, including farm animals. It is, in fact, illegal and, under some circumstances, a felony.

    But we have several concerns with Proposition 12, which would phase out all cages for egg-laying hens and set minimum space requirements for breeding pigs and veal calves.

    For starters, its predecessor, which required farmers to make major investments in new cages or find another livelihood, took effect barely 4½ years ago.

    Moreover, Proposition 2 continues to be targeted by legal and congressional challenges.

    Finally, and perhaps most important, the changes sought by the sponsors of Proposition 12 — at least with regard to hens — already are occurring, not because of any government mandate but because of evolving consumer preferences.

    For anyone who doesn't remember, Proposition 2 requires that breeding pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens have enough room in their enclosures to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs.

    California's pork and veal industries are quite small, so the impact has predominantly been on egg farmers. California is the nation's seventh-leading producer, with about 14.5 million hens laying about 5 billion eggs a year, mostly on family-owned farms. Two large producers are located here in Sonoma County.

    Proposition 2 required egg farms to stop using small so-called battery cages by 2014. Many farms invested in larger colony cages, at a cost of millions of dollars, which in turn pushed up the retail cost of a dozen eggs. Many of those same farms are now planning costly new barns and other enclosures for cage-free farming.

    State legislators followed Proposition 2 with a law requiring farms in other states to meet California standards if they want to sell their eggs here.

    That law has been the subject of multiple legal challenges, including a pending lawsuit brought by 13 farm states that have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is trying to exempt other states from Proposition 2 through the farm bill now pending in Washington.
    Proposition 12 also would require compliance by out-of-state farmers, likely triggering more political challenges and more lawsuits — with taxpayers picking up the tab to defend the law in court.

    To what end? The market already is moving in the direction sought by the Humane Society, with a growing number of shoppers choosing cage-free and free-range eggs, despite the higher cost.

    Many families still opt for less-expensive eggs laid by caged hens, but they won't have that option for too much longer. Numerous retailers, including giants such as Target, Walmart and Whole Foods, have agreed with the Humane Society of the United States to sell only cage-free eggs by 2025. So have McDonald's, Starbucks, Subway, Nestle, Heinz and other restaurants and food service companies.

    Proposition 12 would require egg farms to phase out cages three years earlier. California voters took the lead in protecting egg-laying hens a decade ago. Farmers responded by investing in new cages to comply with the new law, and they are responding to consumer preferences and demands of their clients in the food service industry by increasing production of cage-free eggs. There's no need for another new set of rules, or to have one deadline for retailers and an accelerated one for farmers.

    The Press Democrat recommends a no vote on Proposition 12.


About the Association of California Egg Farmers

The Association of California Egg Farmers (ACEF) is a voluntary trade association established in 2009. It serves as the voice for California egg farmers, an industry that is critical to the state's economy and food supply.

The members of ACEF are family-owned businesses operating throughout California. ACEF is charged with helping these farmers to understand and follow regulations for food safety, the environment and animal protection and to ensure the continued production of fresh, affordable eggs.