Egg Prices Are Set to Spike, and Here’s Why It’s a Good Thing

California may push the rest of the country to treat egg-laying hens a little better.
Chickens won't necessarily be given wide-open pastures like this under California's new laws, but they'll have a little more room than they used to. (Photo: Getty Images)
Dec 29, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

On New Year's Day, your brunch may cost a bit more.

That's the price you'll pay when California's 15 million egg-laying hens have a bit of room to spread their wings after landmark animal-welfare laws are implemented Jan. 1 to abolish the close confinement of farm animals in crates and cages.

University of California, Davis, agricultural economist Dan Sumner tells The Los Angeles Times that prices for wholesale eggs are expected to rise 10 to 40 percent next year, as farmers compensate for the infrastructure upgrades and flock reductions to give the birds more space.

For decades now, industrial farms in the U.S. have crammed hens into 8-inch-square wire confinements, stacked together in a massive clucky clump that animal-welfare advocates say is cruel and conducive to disease—while farmers argue it's safe and a small price to pay for cheap, quality protein. California's new law allows cages but says farm animals must have enough room to "turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend their limbs."

Farmers have already been making changes to get ready for the new laws, and the average wholesale costs hit a peak on Thanksgiving: $2 for a dozen large eggs.

More factors are expected to drive up egg demand and therefore costs, the Times reported. Soaring meat prices are pushing American protein seekers to the cheaper staple. American eggs are being sought in Canadian and Mexican markets because their domestic poultry and egg industries are battling avian flu.

To boot, California's rules are ticking off other egg-producing states, who won't be able to sell their wares in the Golden State because Proposition 2, the bill responsible for all the changes, also mandates that eggs from other states have to comply with California's animal welfare rules to be sold here.

But Humane Society of the United States vice president Paul Shapiro has little sympathy for the egg producers in Iowa, Missouri, Alabama, and other states that are suing over California's law.

"Egg producers have had six years to come into compliance with Proposition 2, and instead of using that time to convert to cage-free systems, they've simply sued and sued and lost every suit they filed while sitting on their hands," Shapiro told the Times.

It may just be a matter of time before egg-producing states are pushed to treat their hens better. Since California passed Proposition 2, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, and Ohio have introduced similar laws, the Times reported.