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California egg law: Great for chickens but interstate commerce could suffer

California egg law provides chickens with better living conditions but interstate commerce problems bubble up.
California egg law provides chickens with better living conditions but interstate commerce problems bubble up.
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The California egg law has put the state in the good graces of animal rights activists, but it can change the face of interstate commerce. California devised the egg law, which will go into effect in 2015, to address the treatment of chickens kept cramped in cages while they lay the eggs that are collected for market, according to Fox News on Feb. 5.

The law prohibits California from selling eggs that come from farms where the chickens are kept in cages that don't comply with the new requirements of space and size for the cages. This is a problem for Missouri, a state where one third of their eggs are exported to California and a state where many of their farm's cages don't meet the standards of this new California egg law.

These tight cages are found on many of the Missouri farms that export their eggs to California and it will cost the state's farmers about $120 million to remodel the cages to comply with the new California egg law.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Fresno on Monday. The lawsuit claims that the California egg law "infringes on the interstate commerce protections of the U.S. Constitution by effectively imposing new requirements on out-of-state farmers."

Concerns that this law has opened a door that may do more than scramble the egg trade in the future. Koster said that California can just as easily demand that California only sell soybeans that are "harvested by hand" or that "corn be transported by solar-powered trucks."

The Humane Society of the United States, which advocated for this California egg law, takes the stand that "states have a right to pass laws to protect the health and safety of their residents," according to Jennifer Fearing who is the Humane Society's senior state director for California.

Fearing also reminded folks that chickens raised in "battery cages" have a higher risk of salmonella contamination. Along with this new law providing chickens with more humane conditions, it is also providing safer health conditions around the eggs that are making their way to the consumers.

"Attorney General Koster's lawsuit targeting California's laws, filed just to curry favor with big agribusiness, threatens state laws across the country dealing with agriculture and food safety," Fearing said.

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