Scrambled: HPAI and new egg law create troubles for consumers
Nearly 58 million birds in the U.S. have been affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza. According to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, of those confirmed cases, 307 commercial flocks have been affected. In Colorado, more than 4.7 million commercial hens have been affected, a number that represents nearly 85% of the state’s flock.
The state’s grocery shoppers have reported widespread egg shortages and high prices when eggs are available.
In addition to shortages caused by HPAI, a new egg law signed by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis took effect on Jan. 1, that could also contribute to high egg prices.
The bill, HB20-1343, sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-District 8, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, requires a farm owner or operator to confine chicken, turkey, duck, goose or guinea fowl hens in only cage-free systems by 2025, with an additional space requirement now in place. The new law also prohibits a business owner or operator from selling shell eggs or egg products that are produced by egg-laying hens that were confined in a manner that conflicts with these standards. In connection with this prohibition, the act:
- Requires, by Jan. 1, 2023, hens to be confined in an enclosure with at least 1 square foot of usable floor space per hen;
- Requires, by Jan. 1, 2025, hens to be confined in a cage-free housing system with at least:
- One square foot of usable floor space per hen if the hens have unfettered access to vertical space; or
- 1.5 square feet of usable floor space per hen if the hens do not have unfettered access to vertical space;
- Deems a sale to have occurred at the location where the buyer takes physical possession of the shell egg or egg product;
- Allows a business to rely upon written certification that the shell egg or egg product did not come from hens that were confined in a manner that conflicts with the act;
- Authorizes the commissioner of agriculture to impose a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation;
- Requires the commissioner to promulgate rules to implement and enforce the act; and
- Authorizes the commissioner to use a government or private inspection process.
The act requires shell eggs and egg products to be annually certified as complying with the standards. Certification requires an inspection.
The following are exempt from the act’s requirements:
- Medical research;
- Veterinary procedures;
- A state or county fair exhibition, 4-H program, or similar exhibition;
- Temporary confinement in connection with animal husbandry;
- A farm with 3,000 or fewer egg-laying hens; or
- A nonfarm business owner or operator with each location selling fewer than 25 cases of, or 30 dozen, shell eggs per week if all locations owned or operated by the business sell fewer than 100 cases of shell eggs per week.
Colorado Egg Producers’ Bill Scebbi told KOA that Colorado producers are ready for the housing requirement changes and are preparing for the additional 2025 requirements. He said the price changes are more likely a result of HPAI than the new law.
The bill replaced The Colorado Farm Animal Confinement Standards Initiative (314) that would have appeared on the ballot. The initiative would have established confinement standards for certain farm animals including egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal, and would have included fines for violations of the confinement standards.
The ballot title for Initiative 314 would have been as follows:
|Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning the confinement standards for certain farm animals used in commercial production, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the confinement without adequate space of egg-laying hens of domesticated fowl, calves raised for veal, and breeding pigs; prohibiting a business from selling eggs or meat produced from covered farm animals confined without adequate space; allowing certain exceptions to the requirement for adequate space for covered farm animals; imposing a fine for violations of the confinement standards; and directing the commissioner of agriculture to enforce the provision?|