Arizona Restaurant Owner Sues Over Costly Cage-Free Egg Mandate
An Arizona poultry regulation is increasing egg prices for restaurants and consumers. A Tucson restaurateur is suing, asking courts to declare the rule invalid.
In April 2022, the Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA) enacted a rule to shift the state to all cage-free eggs by 2025, based in part on “the public’s growing concerns about animal welfare.” Beginning in October 2022, “all eggs sold in the state must come from laying hens” with “at least one square foot of usable floor space per laying hen.” Beginning in 2025, all hens in the state must be housed in such a manner. It was the tenth state to enact such a mandate.
Conditions in traditional egg production facilities can be miserable, with hens crammed into stackable cages smaller than their wingspans. Unable to move, they are forced to eat, sleep, and lay eggs in their own filth.
In 2017, responding to public pressure, businesses representing 70 percent of U.S. egg demand pledged to go cage-free within a decade.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “cage-free” means that birds are “able to freely roam a building, room or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.” This differs from “free-range,” which includes all cage-free criteria plus “continuous access to the outdoors.”
No system is perfect. Cage-free facilities have higher rates of death and injury for birds as well as higher potential for disease and infection. And the cost to go from a stacked-cage system to cage-free is expensive, averaging around $40 per hen; in August 2022, the U.S. averaged 371 million egg-laying hens, according to the USDA. Poultry industry estimates have put the cost of switching the industry to cage-free at $6 billion or more.
A lawsuit filed last week by the Goldwater Institute, a free-market public policy organization, and the Pacific Legal Foundation, says the AZDA overstepped its authority. The groups note in th
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