June 14, 2021

Nevada, US mandates cage-free eggs



The US state of Nevada joined other US states, namely, Utah, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, in mandating cage-free eggs.


However, according to Food Safety News, there are no commercial egg producers in Nevada, nor are any likely to set up businesses there.


Jerry Wilkins from Colorado's Morning Fresh Farms said it costs millions of dollars to convert to cage-free eggs. Morning Fresh Farms supports Nevada going cage-free in the name of a more stable egg supply and creating a level playing field.


More than 200 retail and restaurant chains said they now prefer cage-free eggs, accounting for about 25% of the current market. Five years ago, cage-free production accounted for about 6% of egg sales.


The Nevada Farm Bureau (NFB) started out opposing Nevada Assembly Bill (AB) 399. NFB's executive vice president, Doug Busselman, said NFB was no longer in opposition to the cage-free bill during the legislative process, as the Humane Society of the United States agreed to remove all requirements of the cage-free bill from egg producers with 3,000 or fewer laying hens.


"Our opposition was based on the impacts of Nevada's small backyard and small egg producers," Busselman said.


With no commercial-size egg producers in Nevada and no battery cage systems in use, NFB was satisfied in excluding small producers out of the bill's coverage.


3,000 laying hens or less is commonly used as the definition of a small producer.


A Nevada Senate committee report said state regulation of egg production on farms and the sale of eggs and egg products is necessary to protect the health and welfare of the public, promote food safety and advance animal welfare.


The bill prohibits the sale of eggs or egg products, the transport of eggs or egg products in Nevada, and knowingly confining an egg-laying hen in enclosures that do not comply. It permits the Nevada Department of Agriculture to use both government and private inspectors to ensure compliance.


Assemblyman Howard Watts said the bill he sponsored "seeks to ensure that eggs produced or sold in the state of Nevada meet certain standards of humane treatment for laying hens, often referred to as 'cage-free' housing. Both egg producers and animal welfare advocates agree that this is the right thing to do."


With no commercial egg producers located in Nevada, there were questions raised about whether AB 399 will make much difference to enforcement and inspections.


Watts told fellow lawmakers that a farm owner or operator would have to go through a cage-free certification process with the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA). He says small producers that are exempt "almost always meet cage-free standards anyway."


Watts said NDA would integrate the new requirements into "the existing producers to guarantee food safety, including eggs." He added that there are "various options to have inspections provided" in NDA reports as part of the process.


- Food Safety News

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