Colorado Mandates Cage-Free Eggs

Colorado will be imposing a mandate on the state’s consumers beginning January 1 that requires eggs sold in grocery stores to be certified as “cage-free.” It joins California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington as part of a growing trend among state legislatures to regulate the way hens must be housed in agricultural settings.

The mandates have come with hefty increases in the price of eggs for all consumers. For example, California’s cage-free mandate was enacted after a 2018 ballot measure. As a result, the average cost of a dozen eggs is now approaching $5. Colorado’s average price for a dozen eggs is currently around $3.50.

The Colorado law was passed in 2020 and was written to go into effect at the beginning of 2023 to give farmers time to adjust their production methods – if they can.

Colorado Department of Agriculture egg program manager Julie Mizak told reporters that the new rules will require producers to “include enrichments such as scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing, cage-free housing which allows hens to exhibit their natural behaviors.”

The new law also requires that all hen enclosures provide at least one square foot per bird and provide farm workers enough space to stand upright. In addition, hens must be allowed to roam freely within their enclosures.

The new state law will only apply to farmers with more than 3,000 laying hens.

Farmers and grocers will face potential fines of up to $1,000 per violation of the new state law.

Humane Society of the United States CEO Kitty Block hailed the new Colorado mandate as “yet another striking victory in our campaign to eradicate cruel cage confinement for farm animals.”

University of Massachusetts economist Isabella Weber said that the expenses attributable to the mandate will undoubtedly lead to higher prices for eggs and other food products made with eggs. She also pointed to “rapidly increasing market prices of corn or whatever it is that they eat” as a direct factor in driving up consumer prices for eggs.

Federal inflation numbers released on Tuesday morning show that while overall consumer goods price increases rose slightly less than expected, food prices continue to surge at levels not seen in four decades.