The new falcon herald logo.
Feature Articles

Colorado is cage free

As of Jan. 1, Coloradoís law that bans caged hens is officially in effect. House Bill 20-1343, also known as the Egg-Laying Hen Confinement Standards, is a multiphase law that aims to further goals to promote animal welfare, food safety and the health of consumers ó all while trying to maintain the livelihoods of egg producers.The billís initial requirement enforced today states that at least one square-foot of usable floor space must be allotted to each hen in a confined enclosure. Additionally, business owners are now prohibited from selling eggs or egg products that are not produced in compliance with the law.†These introductory modified rules serve as stepping stones to give farmers the time they need to transition to the cage-free confinement methods they must comply with when the law takes full effect two years from now.By January 2025, all eggs produced and sold in Colorado must be completely cage free, in compliance with all of the lawís regulations. By the billís definition, all hens must live in a controlled indoor or outdoor environment where they are free to roam unrestricted, except by walls and fencing used to contain an entire flock or subdivide it into smaller groupings. It also calls for the inclusion of enrichments like scratch areas, perches, nest boxes and dust bathing areas that allow hens to exhibit the same behaviors they would in a natural setting. In addition, farm employees must also be able to stand up inside the henís usable floor space to provide care.††There are a couple of exceptions to these rules. Julie Mizak, the egg program manager at the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said, ìAny farms that have fewer than 3,000 egg-laying hens do not have to meet the regulations in HB20-1343. Additionally, there is an exception for businesses selling fewer than 25 cases, or 30 dozen, of shell eggs per week.î Also, if all locations owned or operated by one business sell fewer than 100 cases of shell eggs per week, that operator is exempt.Mizak also said since the regulatory program is so new, consequences will be lenient in the beginning. ìNon-compliance by egg producers and business owners will be first addressed through education about the law. CDA will work with egg producers and business owners to establish a reasonable amount of time to come into compliance with the regulation. Follow-up inspections resulting in repeated non-compliance can result in enforcement action, including civil fines.îWhile these changes might feel sudden for some, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, Sen. Kerry Donovan, who comes from a ranching background, said it has been in the works for years.†HB20-1343 was passed in 2020.In the past, there were absolutely no housing requirements for egg-laying hens in Colorado and there were no new requirements on the horizon. However, Donovan said an out-of-state animal rights group brought forward their own ballot initiative, which she said was highly restrictive. Donovan said the timeline for transitioning to the new regulations was extremely restrictive. She said the initiative came from the ìfar left animal rights perspectiveî and it was ìvery removed from the good folks who are taking care of animals on the ground.îìThe concept (HB20-1343) was brought to us by the egg producers of Colorado themselves because they were being threatened with this ballot initiative that I think everyone in agriculture was pretty concerned about, since it would’ve been nearly impossible for any egg producer to meet the expectations of the ballot initiative,î Donovan said. ìThere was testimony during the bill that if the initiative is passed, it would basically eliminate any egg production in Colorado of any scale.îShe referred to the predicament as a ìhostage situationî for egg producers. Basically, the egg producers had two choices: come up with alternative legislation that was realistic for the industry while simultaneously satisfying the people behind the original ballot initiative, or face the possibility of the original ballot initiative passing and potentially putting local egg producers out of business.†ìAnd so, we ran this legislation so that I could work with the egg producers to get something on paper that they thought they would be able to meet,î Donovan said. If they came up with a new ballot initiative with reasonable timelines and expectations, the animal rights organizationís ballot initiative would be pulled off the ballot. ìThatís indeed what happened,î she said. ìWe ran a bill that the egg producers helped me draft and then they were not faced with an unrealistic ballot initiative.îMost of the details on the bill came directly from Colorado egg producers, Donovan said. ìThe bill that I wrote in conjunction with the egg producers was what they felt the industry was already doing or could do. So, it was very realistic in expectations and timing and implementation.î†HB20-1343 was signed into law in 2020.†The hope is that this law will make things better for the animals, the professionals who raise the animals for a living and the consumers who rely on the animals for food.Donovan said, ìWe know the less that we confine animals, the better and healthier they are. We also know that healthier hens lay more eggs for a longer amount of time Ö we know that itís actually better for the industry.îScott Scarborough, owner/operator of City Farm, who currently raises 4,500 cage-free egg-laying hens in Montrose, Colorado, said, ìThe consumer gets an egg that is as natural as possible. It is common sense that what a person eats will affect the overall health of that person. The welfare of the animal is a huge part of that picture, as the better the animal is treated the better the product will be.î†However, ìNone of those things come without cost,î Donovan said.†Scarborough agreed, ìAmericaís farmers have done an amazing job of being able to feed everyone, but unfortunately some of the methods of producing these food products may not be the best long-term solution. It will be a major financial burden for the farmer to move from caged to cage free.î†And so, a common question in the conversation remains:†Is this regulation increasing the price of eggs?†ìWe do not believe this regulation has contributed significantly to the higher egg prices,î Mizak said. ìBased on an analysis of USDA data, egg prices have risen across the country, not just in Colorado.î†Donovan said the combination of the avian flu crisis and supply chain problems is what is to blame for the shortage of eggs; thus, the rising egg prices.ìI think tying this (bill) to the cost of eggs is just really misplaced. Agriculture is a very, very complex business and this is just one example of the complexity of growing food for people,î Donovan said. ìTo try to simplify it that just one bill passed years ago would cause prices to skyrocket is just such a disservice to the hardworking families that are trying to produce delicious eggs that people love,î Donovan said. ìWe should be focusing on the real cost drivers so that people can better understand the challenges that agriculture faces.î

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers