The impact of Prop. 2 on California’s egg industry could potentially be catastrophic. If forced to move to cage-free practices, egg producers will have to absorb an estimated 20 percent rise in production costs according to a UC Davis study. Ultimately, this proposal would make California produced eggs 25 percent more expensive than conventional, factory farm eggs shipped in from other states or even Mexico.
Eggs produced outside of California don’t undergo the same high food safety standards mandated under current California law. Furthermore, more than three thousand jobs and $600 million in revenue would flee the state. The growing, but small, demand for “cage-free” eggs would not be enough to offset such an outsourcing of labor. Not just large concerns who use modern housing systems exclusively would feel a negative impact from Prop. 2, cage-free farmers across the state will have to compete with the stringent language of the proposal, lowering their stocking densities and thus losing any competitive edge to out-of-state poultry farmers.
There are significant health risks associated with moving away from modern housing systems, as the scientific literature well indicates. Californians will put themselves at greater risk of salmonella infection if egg producers in the state are forced to move their operations outdoors, in which case they place their birds at an increased risk of salmonella infection from rodents and other wildlife species. Californians for Safe Food, the non-profit coalition of family farmers and agribusiness interests opposing Prop. 2, assert in their official ballot rebuttal arguments, “Since hens housed in cage-free and free-range housing systems have access to the outdoors, it substantially increases their risk of exposure to Avian Influenza (AI), Exotic Newcastle Disease, and other diseases from wildlife species of birds, according to the United States Animal Health Association.”
California law already protects farm animals from cruel and inhumane treatment. In the end, this measure would not help to curb inhumane treatment of farm animals, it will simply “subsidize” their mistreatment outside the state of California by crippling the state’s ability to compete with out-of-state egg producers whose operating standards may not meet the high bar set by California farmers.