BOSTON (WPRI) — Neighboring states soon could see an influx of shoppers in search of eggs if Massachusetts lawmakers don’t come to an agreement on a new animal welfare law.
New England Brown Egg Council General Manager Bill Bell said once the new law takes effect in January, the majority of eggs currently being sold in Massachusetts won’t be in compliance.
“There will be the high price, or higher priced, organic eggs that are for sale, but that’s not going to dent that need for 90% more eggs if the law doesn’t change,” he explained.
The animal welfare law, which was approved by Massachusetts voters in 2016, creates new standards on the treatment of animals used for meat and egg production.
Part of that law bans the sale of eggs that come from farms, both in and out of state, that house their chickens in enclosures smaller than 1.5 square feet per hen.
Bell said the national standard is 1 square foot per hen, adding that Massachusetts was ahead of the country when the law was voted in.
Since its approval, Massachusetts lawmakers have worked to amend the law in a way that won’t disrupt egg production in the state.
The amendments include exceptions for “multi-tiered aviaries, partially-slatted cage-free housing systems or any other cage-free housing system that provides hens with unfettered access to vertical space.”
The Massachusetts House of Representatives is also requesting the portion of the law regarding pork products be delayed until 2023, and that the Department of Agricultural Resources be in charge of enforcing the new rules once implemented, both of which were not included in the Senate’s proposal.
When asked where the law currently stands, Sen. Jason Lewis said both House and Senate lawmakers are actively trying to reach an agreement.
“We fully recognize the time-sensitive nature of this issue, and the importance of avoiding any disruption in the Massachusetts egg supply,” Lewis said in a statement.
Bell said he’s concerned about the impacts this law will have on the state’s egg supply, adding that grocers have told him eggs are the third-most requested product in the nationwide WIC program.
“This is critical for low-income people, in particular,” Bell said.
In order for the amendments to make it to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, a spokesperson for Lewis said both the House and Senate need to agree on the language used.