Eggs will largely disappear from grocery store shelves in Massachusetts on January 1, 2022, unless state lawmakers act quickly to change a tough new animal welfare law.
What are the details?
In 2016, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed an animal treatment measure that, in part, made it illegal to sell eggs born to hens with less than 1.5 square feet of floor space in their pen. Now that ruling, which is expected to take effect in 2022, is coming home and threatening to wipe out the state’s egg supply.
According to the Boston GlobeEgg industry representatives such as the New England Brown Egg Council predict the new rules will reduce the state’s current egg supply by about 90 percent.
The council’s chief executive, Bill Bell, told the Globe that “retailers are in a huge dilemma”, adding: “you’re just facing a huge shortage”.
“It will be the egg of Armageddon if they don’t fix the law”, warned Steve Vendemia, president of Hillendale Farms in Connecticut, which has about 2 million egg-producing chickens sold in Massachusetts supermarkets. Under the new rules, he will not be able to sell the product.
Brad Mitchell, director of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau, says WCVB-TV that the new rules will prevent egg producers from meeting state demand because, on average, hens lay one egg per day and each resident eats one egg per day.
“We have about 300,000 to 400,000 laying hens in Massachusetts. We have about 7 million, so do the math,” Mitchell explained.
The new standards, which apply to all egg products, also cover eggs imported from other states.
“[It’s] not just eggs. They are also egg products,” Bob Beauregard, general manager of The Country Hen in Hubbardston, told WCVB. So hard-boiled eggs, liquid eggs should all be taken off the shelf on January 1 if the law doesn’t change.”
The state’s Republican Gov. Charlie Baker voted for the ballot measure in 2016. But now he’s joining the chorus of worried residents. This week, he urged lawmakers to make the changes needed to stave off this embarrassing crisis.
“Everyone is already paying too much at the grocery store, and not addressing this egg supply issue will drive up costs even further,” Baker said. tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “I urge lawmakers to reach consensus shortly before these rules take effect in January.”
Boston.com reported that even some animal rights groups, such as the Humane Society, have come out in favor of relaxing standards to avoid chaos in state grocery stores.
Negotiations are reportedly underway in the state legislature to resolve the issue, but time is running out.