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California's egg-farm law prompts a push for national standards

In a rare alliance, the Humane Society and egg ranchers lobby for federal legislation on the treatment of chickens that would override California's Proposition 2.

May 27, 2012|By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times

In addition to providing birds with nearly twice as much living space, the cages include accessories intended to mimic conditions chickens would encounter in the wild. There are steel perches that replicate branches and boxes that provide private, dark areas for the birds to lay eggs.

The floor of each cage is slanted so that eggs gently roll onto conveyor belts, which haul the eggs into a processing room where they're washed, dried and mechanically inserted into cartons.

"The hens seem to prefer it," Benson said. "They have lower mortality and they produce better."

The company has attempted to sell some of those eggs at a premium by marketing the improved living conditions, but they have not sold well, Benson said. Consumers tend to reach for the cheapest eggs they can find, she said.

Benson and her family are so proud of the new barns that they installed cameras to stream video of the hens live on the Internet.

"We understand there's been a societal shift and people have more concern about where their food came from," Benson said. "We believe agriculture in general needs to be more transparent, and this is one way that we're addressing it."

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