California chickens are getting an extreme coop makeover in 2015 under a proposition passed by the state’s voters back in 2008, and it’s costing farmers and consumers in renovations and rising egg prices.
“It’s like chicken Disneyland,” Lakeside egg farmer Frank Hilliker told NBC7 News San Diego, describing his new $220,000 state mandated cage-free chicken aviary. “They’re jumping up and down on the aviary structure, they’ve got toys in there for them to play with. They’re all over the place.”
Proposition 2 requires chicken farmers to increase cage sizes or get rid of cages completely and go cage free, says Hilliker, whose family has been farming in Lakeside, California for over 70 years.
“Right now it’s a learning curve,” Hilliker remarked, “learning how to feed them properly in a cage-free environment. Learning how to care for them because it’s a different ballgame than when they are in cages.”
Hilliker’s farm sits in San Diego County, one of the top five egg producing counties in the nation, according to the San Diego Farm Bureau. More than 800 million eggs have come out of San Diego County yearly, from four million chickens. Still reports say Californian egg demand outpaces supply.
California farmers aren’t the only ones affected by the rules in affect as of January 1. Any farmer outside the state that wants to sell eggs for distribution in California must comply with the new regulations, as well. In addition to requiring pricey aviary renovations, those structures hold fewer chickens and, in the case of Hilliker’s new coop, only half as many fill the same space. Finding eggs can be a challenge as well, driving up time and effort to gather the lower yield of eggs.
Over the past twelve months, the wholesale price of Hilliker’s eggs have flown up 80 cents per dozen. Mercury News reports California egg prices up 70 percent already this year.
“I think ultimately when the folks in the midwest and the south see how much people are paying for eggs here, they’re going to convert,” Hiliker told NBC7.
Six states have sued California over further new standards, claiming, “TP Photoheir egg farmers would lose hundreds of millions of dollars if they had to comply with the California law, which was passed by the Legislature in 2010 and is scheduled to take effect in January,” states the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chronicle reported in October that a judge threw out the lawsuit. The states argued in the suit that the restrictive law unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce.
“They sing more than the chickens in cages,” Hilliker answered NBC7. “I would say they’re probably a little bit happier.”
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