Healey writes rules for egg, meat producers

By Christian M. Wade, Statehouse Reporter | June 9, 2021

BOSTON — The attorney general’s office has issued regulations banning eggs and meat from cage-confined animals to comply with a 2016 referendum, as the food industry warns of shortages and higher prices on the horizon.

A 2016 ballot question, approved by more than 77% of voters, prohibits the production or sale of eggs, veal and other meat produced by animals kept in cramped enclosures. The new rules were due to be released last year but got delayed by the pandemic and wrangling over provisions of the law.

Egg producers say the law, which mandates cages of 1½ square feet per bird, is unworkable because most cage-free systems use a 1-foot standard.

When the law goes into effect next year, producers supplying the state won’t be able to meet its tougher requirement, they say, which will mean empty shelves and price spikes.

“We’re going to be an outlier unless the law is adjusted,” said William Bell, general manager of the New England Brown Egg Council. “There will not be nearly enough cage-free eggs to meet the demand.”

Bell said industry officials weren’t expecting Attorney General Maura Healey to alter the size of the enclosure as part of her regulations.

Still, they say time is running out.

Proposals filed by state Rep. Dan Cahill, D-Lynn, and Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, seek to update the voter approved law by reducing the size of the enclosures for egg-laying hens to 1 square foot for large-scale, multi-tiered aviary farms that allow birds to move around more freely.

The updates are backed by many egg producers as well as animal welfare groups who say updating the rules will lead to better conditions for animals.

But proposals have languished on Beacon Hill. Some groups, such as the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, want the state to implement the law as approved by voters, noting that regional egg producing farms have already made costly modifications to comply with the 2016 referendum.

To be sure, Massachusetts isn’t home to many large-scale egg and pork-producing farms. Most products sold here come from other states.

But the 2016 referendum also applies to products sent to Massachusetts.

Six pages of regulations issued by Healey’s office last week leave the law approved by voters intact. They spell out basic parameters of the law and penalties, such as $1,000 per violation.

The rules also don’t mention the required size of individual enclosures for egg-laying hens or pigs, only that the law prohibits the production or sale of products from animals “confined in a cruel manner.”

Egg and meat producers have asked the state to delay implementation of the law by another year to give them more time to adjust.

Healey was under pressure from all sides to issue the regulations, even if they are likely to be updated again before the law takes effect.

A California-based animal welfare group sued the attorney general last year seeking to force her to issue the new rules.

Healey wrote to lawmakers last year saying her office wasn’t “best suited” to handle the effort, urging them to delegate the rule-writing to the Department of Agricultural Resources. Lawmakers didn’t act on her request.

READ MORE ON SALEMNEWS.COM

By Christian M. Wade, Statehouse Reporter | June 9, 2021

BOSTON — The attorney general’s office has issued regulations banning eggs and meat from cage-confined animals to comply with a 2016 referendum, as the food industry warns of shortages and higher prices on the horizon.

A 2016 ballot question, approved by more than 77% of voters, prohibits the production or sale of eggs, veal and other meat produced by animals kept in cramped enclosures. The new rules were due to be released last year but got delayed by the pandemic and wrangling over provisions of the law.

Egg producers say the law, which mandates cages of 1½ square feet per bird, is unworkable because most cage-free systems use a 1-foot standard.

When the law goes into effect next year, producers supplying the state won’t be able to meet its tougher requirement, they say, which will mean empty shelves and price spikes.

“We’re going to be an outlier unless the law is adjusted,” said William Bell, general manager of the New England Brown Egg Council. “There will not be nearly enough cage-free eggs to meet the demand.”

Bell said industry officials weren’t expecting Attorney General Maura Healey to alter the size of the enclosure as part of her regulations.

Still, they say time is running out.

Proposals filed by state Rep. Dan Cahill, D-Lynn, and Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, seek to update the voter approved law by reducing the size of the enclosures for egg-laying hens to 1 square foot for large-scale, multi-tiered aviary farms that allow birds to move around more freely.

The updates are backed by many egg producers as well as animal welfare groups who say updating the rules will lead to better conditions for animals.

But proposals have languished on Beacon Hill. Some groups, such as the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, want the state to implement the law as approved by voters, noting that regional egg producing farms have already made costly modifications to comply with the 2016 referendum.

To be sure, Massachusetts isn’t home to many large-scale egg and pork-producing farms. Most products sold here come from other states.

But the 2016 referendum also applies to products sent to Massachusetts.

Six pages of regulations issued by Healey’s office last week leave the law approved by voters intact. They spell out basic parameters of the law and penalties, such as $1,000 per violation.

The rules also don’t mention the required size of individual enclosures for egg-laying hens or pigs, only that the law prohibits the production or sale of products from animals “confined in a cruel manner.”

Egg and meat producers have asked the state to delay implementation of the law by another year to give them more time to adjust.

Healey was under pressure from all sides to issue the regulations, even if they are likely to be updated again before the law takes effect.

A California-based animal welfare group sued the attorney general last year seeking to force her to issue the new rules.

Healey wrote to lawmakers last year saying her office wasn’t “best suited” to handle the effort, urging them to delegate the rule-writing to the Department of Agricultural Resources. Lawmakers didn’t act on her request.

READ MORE ON SALEMNEWS.COM