Legislators want national egg standards

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Animal rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States helped negotiate the legislation with industry organizations like the United Egg Producers, which represents owners of 95 percent of the country's egg-laying hens.

“The HSUS and United Egg Producers have been long-time adversaries, but have come together and identified a solution that balances animal welfare and the economic realities of the industry," said Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle in a statement to The Hill. "The nation needs this kind of problem solving, and the Congress should enthusiastically embrace an agreement between all of the key stakeholders.”

"We need a single national standard so that everybody plays by a level playing field," said United Egg Producers spokesman Mitch Head. "This is desperate for us, that we need a national standard," or else some egg producers might go out of business, he warned.

The bill seeks to ensure both universal humane treatment of hens and uniform egg labeling.

The legislation would phase in a standard for hens' cage size and air quality and require they are provided "environmental enrichments" like scratching areas and perch space.

The bill will also require that egg cartons are labeled to indicate how the eggs were produced, such as "eggs from caged hens" or "eggs from enriched cages."

The bill, called the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, would amend the 1970 law covering egg inspection.

Feinstein and Schrader previously introduced the legislation in the last Congress as a part of the farm bill, but it died in committee.