Consumers support bill that doesn’t support science

The incredible/regrettable egg bill — which is it? That depends on who you ask. American consumers overwhelmingly support the national legislation regarding egg production that was introduced last week in Congress, according to a new survey.

Consumers said they would support federal legislation that would transition egg production from the existing conventional cages used for egg-laying hens to enriched cages by a margin of 4-to-1. Furthermore, consumers said that federal legislation was preferable to state legislation by a margin of 2-to-1.

The study was conducted by an independent research company, The Bantam Group, and commissioned by United Egg Producers which represents the majority of egg farmers in the U.S. and which supports the federal legislation. However, the survey’s sponsorship was anonymous so as to not bias any of the 2,000 respondents, all of whom were registered voters.

Consumers support the transition to enriched cages for egg production by a margin of 12-to-1. Consumers also said that the two most important groups to support this transition outlined in the federal legislation (H.R. 3798) to enriched cages are UEP and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), both of which support the bill, as do more than 11 egg and farm groups, 10 animal protection groups, and the National Consumers League. Fifty-nine percent of consumers said they would be “more supportive” if they knew that UEP and HSUS supported such legislation; only 1 percent said they would be more opposed.

Enriched cages provide egg-laying hens nearly double the amount of space they currently have in conventional cages, plus provide perches, nest boxes, and scratch pads, which allow the hens to exhibit their natural behaviors.

“This is legislation that egg farmers and consumers overwhelmingly support,” said David Lathem, a Georgia egg farmer and chairman of UEP.

The survey was fielded by an independent research group, Bantam, which conducted two nationwide surveys, of 1,000 registered voters each, December 27, 2011 through January 20, 2012. The first survey investigated consumer support for enriched cages, the second survey investigated consumer support for the federal legislation. The question of federal versus state legislation is important because several states, including Ohio, have already have established, or are in the process of establishing, different laws regarding the housing and sale of eggs.

While consumers may support the legislation, many agricultural groups do not. The American Farm Bureau Federation today strongly criticized a bill pushed by the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers to implement an agreement they reached to replace decades of science-based animal care practices with strict government control.

“This bill would result in mandated animal care standards based largely on the political goals of an animal rights group that seeks to eventually shut down animal agriculture by government mandate,” said Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau president. “The bill ignores the science supporting the consensus among mainstream agricultural veterinarians, animal scientists and livestock producers. We see this legislation as an attempt by a radical animal rights group to legitimize a policy package that will undoubtedly be used to bully other livestock producers.”

According to Stallman, as science has provided improved animal care standards, techniques and tools over the years, farmers and ranchers have steadily and voluntarily adopted these improvements to enhance the welfare of their livestock and viability of their operations.

“The top priority of America’s farm and ranch families is to raise healthy animals, which results in healthy food for our nation,” Stallman said. “Our food supply is simply too important for scientifically proven production standards to be outlawed on any basis. We firmly believe that any approach to animal care that does not rely on the expertise of veterinarians and animal scientists collaborating with farmers, ranchers and other livestock producers – in short, the people who work with farm animals daily – is simply not justified.”

Other organizations raising serious concerns about the bill include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation and the National Milk Producers Federation.

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  1. any research or data on implications on increased production costs and consumer retail costs. if it does create higher prices long term are consumer and other groups going to blame it on high corn cost c/o ethanol or whatever else they can pick on? vicious cycle

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