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Colorado passes cage-free egg law after NGO lobbying

New law stipulates that all Colorado eggs must be cage-free by 2025 as legislators move to head off more sweeping ballot measures.

10 July 2020, at 10:22am

According to reporting in the Colorado Sun, the new law comes amid consumer lobbying for greater cage-free egg production. But their reporting finds that the law was passed after out-of-state activist groups threatened to run a stricter poultry welfare ballot initiative.

Most laying hens in Colorado are raised in conventional caged housing, but not for much longer. The new legislation states that egg producers must convert their housing to cage-free designs by 2025. Egg producers estimate that it will cost them about $30 per bird to make the change. That translates $165 million to make all of Colorado’s egg layers cage-free.

“The cost of converting is immense. It’s extraordinary,” said Jerry Wilkins, sales and marketing director at Morning Fresh Farms in Platteville, which estimated it will spend $24 million to put its 800,000 caged hens into cage-free housing. “Each producer is going to take a huge hit to make this conversion.”

The Sun reports that the state legislature wasn’t inclined to pass the measure, but faced a more sweeping ballot proposal from World Animal Protection that would have required egg producers to transition to cage-free by the end of 2021. In order to prevent that measure from being put to the voters in November, legislators adopted the 2025 bill.

The legislative compromise has ruffled feathers in the state house as some law makers fear that the move sets a precedent for out of state special-interest groups influencing ballot measures as a quid-pro-quo.

Read more about this story in the Colorado Sun.