Food providers deserve better.
Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill to require egg producers to make significant improvements in the treatment of hens. The legislation has the endorsement of the United Egg Producers, which represents close to 90 percent of the industry, as well as the Humane Society of the United States.
The bill would mandate that each hen get at least 124 square inches of room, nearly double the current norm. It requires "enriched" cages that allow chickens to perch, nest and scratch. And it calls for labels to let consumers know if the eggs they buy come from hens that are caged, cage-free or free-range. Producers would have at least 15 years to make the changes, minimizing the costs they would bear.
It's a small but important step, and it deserves to be enacted. Americans are already demanding better conditions for the animals that provide our food, even if it may mean slightly higher prices. Two states have outlawed cramped cages.
Major chains like Costco and Wal-Mart already insist on cage-free eggs for their private brands. Food companies General Mills and Kraft are shifting in that direction. Burger King has announced that within five years it will switch to all cage-free eggs.
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