Mo. Attorney General sues Calif. over housing for chickens

KSDK - There is a lot of clucking voiced lately over a law that would affect local farmers who sell millions of eggs in California.

It could also affect how you get your omelets and sunny side ups in the future.

In 2010, California's Legislature passed a law that makes it illegal to buy eggs that come from hens housed in cages like the ones shot by the Humane Society of the United States.

Dr. Michael Blackwell, a veterinarian and a former investigator with the FDA is now the chief veterinary spokesperson for the animal rights organization.

When it comes to cages, Dr. Blackwell says his organizations undercover video represents the industry standard.

Next year, farmers in states like Missouri will have to make their chicken coops larger if they want to sell their eggs in California.

That is why Mo. Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit challenging the law.

"California has every right in the world to determine what type of housing they have for their chickens. But to close off the California market to Missouri based producers unless we expand our chicken houses is a breach of the US Commerce Clause," Koster said. "Californians swallows 9 billion eggs a year. Of that, Missouri hens contribute roughly 6 percent, or 540 million eggs...If Missouri farmers comply with California's law, it will cost $120,000,000 to enlarge their coops.

If California is allowed to tell us how big Missouri chicken coups should be then they can tell us we have to pick our soybeans by hand or move our corn to market in solar powered trucks."

Koster added, if Missouri farmers don't sell in California, egg producers here will face a surplus of a half billion eggs, which could depress prices and force some farmers out of business.

Dr. Blackwell says it's not only abusive, he says studies show the conditions can cause salmonella.

"You take any creature including humans and place that creature in an unnatural and stressful condition, we know the body will not handle infections very will not handle microbes very well," he said.

"There is no evidence whether the chicken is raised in a small pen, a big pen, or the Ritz Hotel, the underlying commodity itself is different," Koster said.

Koster wants a federal judge to strike down the California law which regulates the living conditions of chickens.

California's Attorney general, Kamala Harris, isn't commenting.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is looking very closely at the law and has been in contact with Koster.


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