United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the U.S., two groups with a long and contentious history, have come together in support of federal standards for America's 280 million laying hens.
The proposed legislation calls for conventional cages to be replaced by “enriched cages” that provide 124 to 144 square inches of space — double the size of most cages currently in use — and include enhancements like perches, nesting boxes and scratch pads. The UEP and the HSUS have also proposed a labeling system that identifies the environment in which hens were raised: in a cage, enriched cage, cage-free or free-range. Other proposals include improved euthanasia practices and limiting ammonia levels in henhouses.
The two groups are recommending a 15- to 18-year period in which these provisions would be phased in, at a price tag of $4 billion.