Prop 2's Cageless Potential
The Humane Society of the USA, in a study co-authored by former California finance director Tim Gage, examined what would likely happen if Prop 2 passes this November. They determine that while there will be a decline in factory farm produced egg-laying dispensaries, we can also expect to see a transition to the growing market for cage-free eggs. This means a noticeable price drop for cage-free egg consumers.
The study also determined that California currently produces less than 6 percent of the country's egg supply, but again, the growth in demand for cage-free eggs -- a standard that will exist in the European Union by 2012 and is being looked at by other states -- could make California a niche market leader. As California takes hold of the cage-free egg market, the national large-scale egg producers apparently fear the more humane standard will be mainstreamed, judging by the swarm of out-of-state egg-industry money behind the No on Prop 2 campaign. It remains curious that while the No on Prop 2 campaign insists out-of-state producers would benefit from Prop 2's passage -- since California's small share of the conventional egg market will decline further -- 79 percent of the donations to the No on Prop 2 campaign come from out-of-state factory farms and related industry interests. This suggests that the out-of-state big egg producers fear the spread of our more humane farming methods.
The study's authors see potential in a market centered on "California Grown", more humanely produced, often organic, premium eggs. California has seen success in cornering other specialty agricultural markets, including table grapes, avocados, prunes, almonds, raisins, and walnuts. We are of course renowned for our wines and cheeses too. If cage-free egg production is part of the future of agriculture, California is right to stake it's claim as an industry leader. An AC Nielsen study noted that supermarket sales of specialty eggs increased by 63 percent between 2001 and 2005. It is only appropriate that California, considered a trendsetter in national moors, lead the way in increasing humane standards for farm animal treatment, all while taking advantage of a growing market. Our state's efforts to prioritize renewable energy over older energy sources are analogous.
Eggs currently only represents .83 percent of the total state agricultural production value, and .02 percent of total state economic activity. The transition from factory farm production to cage-free production increases production costs somewhere between 12 and 27 percent. Under Prop 2, consumers purchasing conventional eggs will likely see no change in price; consumers preferring California grown eggs could see around a penny per egg increase in cost; while those preferring cage-free eggs will see a drop in cost with a new California provider.
Most importantly, hens raised for egg production in California will finally be allowed the basic ability to extend their wings, turn around, and live some semblance of a normal life.
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