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More Elbow Room for Indiana Chickens?

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Monday, July 11, 2011   

INDIANAPOLIS - When it comes to the age-old question: "Which came first; the chicken or the egg?", two national groups are pulling for the chicken. United Egg Producers and The Humane Society of the United States are joining forces in an unlikely partnership to ask Congress for new federal standards for all commercial egg producers. That's an important matter in Indiana, which is the fourth-largest producer of eggs among the 50 states.

The proposed legislation would require that conventional hen cages be phased out and replaced with cages that give each hen almost double the living space. Paul Shapiro, spokesman for The Humane Society, says things aren't good now.

"It's not 'Old MacDonald's Farm' out there: it's, in fact, hundreds of millions of birds which are confined in very cramped cages where they're unable even to spread their wings."

The proposal by the two groups would be phased in over 15 years. It would require living conditions that allow for natural behaviors with the addition of perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas, as well as prohibit the practice of withholding feed or water to extend the laying cycle.

Mitch Head is the spokesman for United Egg Producers, a national cooperative of farmers, which represents about 80 percent of the nation's egg producers. He says a vast majority of them are supportive of a national standard.

"I think consumers will have greater confidence that the eggs that they'll be buying are produced in a proper and humane way."

The standards would also mandate labeling on all egg cartons to inform consumers about the conditions in which the eggs they are buying were produced. Such labels would for example specify cage-free birds, free-range chickens, or eggs from caged hens.



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