Egg producers and the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) agree on a bill to require larger chicken cages, but the pork and beef industries fear they're next and are fighting it.

Remember our reports a few months ago on the odd couple who struck an innovative compromise between egg producers and animal welfare activists? (Here's a hint: The deal calls for egg producers to replace their standard cages with new "enriched" accommodations, complete with perches and nest boxes where chickens can lay their eggs.)

Well, that deal seems to be in trouble. It's running into a fierce counterattack from America's hog and beef producers — even though those industries aren't mentioned in the proposed deal, and aren't directly affected by it.

The deal has a crucial weakness: It only takes effect if Congress writes the new compromise standards for chicken housing into law. The United Egg Producers (UEP), which represents most of the country's egg production, says that's necessary. If the standards are voluntary, says the UEP, any farmer who ignores them and sticks with old-style cramped cages will be able to sell eggs more cheaply and put his competitors out of business.
 
Essentially, the egg industry is asking for regulation — the first regulation, in fact, that considers the emotional well-being of America's farm animals.

And that is enough to send the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) into full-blown fury. They fear a slippery slope: If Congress can regulate the housing of chickens, what's to stop it from regulating the living conditions of hogs and cattle?

To see the full article, click here.

For a beef industry perspective on this UEP/HSUS issue, read this piece by Kansas DVM Dave Sjeklocha.

Check out this additional commentary from Troy Marshall.