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Egg laying chickens will likely wait 5 more years for less confining cages in Michigan

Blandford students raise hens and sell the eggs as part of an "eggtrepreneur" lesson.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
File photo of chickens.

A state House committee has approved a bill to give egg producers more time to convert their facilities to less confining conditions for the chickens.

Sarah Waun testified at the hearing.  She's a Senate policy advisor who appeared on behalf of state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof.

Waun says restaurants and other buyers have committed to only buy eggs from facilities that allow chickens enough room to move and turn around and spread their wings  - but not until 2025.

Current law requires egg producers to be less confining by 2020.

"This leaves a five year gap between Michigan law and the private sector commitment to source these eggs," Waun testified. "The gap would have a significant disruptive impact on Michigan's egg industry and create unnecessary roadblocks to growth."

Beatrice Friedlander of Attorneys for Animals also testified in support of the bill. 

"We think it's a good compromise reflecting the reality of the need to extend time for egg-laying producers to comply, and it's a good start to recognizing the harm that can come to animals in confinement," Friedlander said.

Mary Kalpinski, CEO of the Michigan Pork Producers, was the only person to testify against the bill.

"We would not oppose this bill if it simply extended the deadline for the egg industry," Kalpinsky testified.  "It is the conclusion of non-scientific based language that we object to. This is precedent setting."

Kalpinski was referring to language in the bill claiming that eggs from extremely confined chickens have an increases risk of food-borne illness. 

"Where is the science that supports this language?" she asked.

Kalpinski also said her group believes the bill violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause, because it will prohibit out-of-state egg producers from selling eggs in Michigan if the egg-laying chickens were extremely confined. She says such a law will also increase prices, and deny consumers a choice of what kind of eggs to buy.

The bill passed out of committee by a vote of four yes, zero no, and two abstentions.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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