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.
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