A LAW that requires all eggs sold in Arizona to be produced by hens housed and managed in systems that meet the animal welfare guidelines of the United Egg Producers (UEP) will become effective in October, Arizona egg producer Glenn Hickman told UEP members attending the group's spring board meeting in Washington, D.C., last week.
Hickman said his company pushed the legislation after Arizona voters adopted a ballot initiative in 2006 that makes gestation stalls for sows and stalls for veal calves illegal in 2013 (Feedstuffs, Nov. 13, 2006).
He said his company first invited Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to tour the company's hen houses and see how hens were housed and, afterwards, got her endorsement for the legislation, which then was introduced in the Arizona legislature.
He said the bill was adopted by the legislature and signed by Napolitano late last year. It cleared a commission that reviews all state laws earlier this month.
Hickman said the law requires that eggs sold in Arizona meet UEP guidelines or the equivalent and specifies that it applies to eggs produced for sale in the state, which means they can be produced in Arizona or anywhere else if they meet UEP guidelines.
The law is not subject to regulation by any city, county or other political subdivision in the state.
The UEP guidelines were developed and are modified as new science and technology are introduced by an independent committee of animal ethicists and poultry scientists. The guidelines set parameters for hen space, feed and water space, air quality, beak trimming, molting without feed or water withdrawal, catching and transportation, as well as euthanasia of birds if necessary.
There are guidelines for hens in both cage and cage-free housing systems.
Producers enrolled in the animal welfare program, UEP Certified, are audited every year for compliance, with 238 million layers, or about 85% of the country's flock, housed under the guidelines.
The program was originally adopted by the UEP board of directors in 2000 (Feedstuffs, Oct. 16, 2000).
Hickman said the law represents a major opportunity for the Arizona industry to demonstrate to consumers that a ballot initiative regulating the care and housing of hens in the state is not necessary, although an initiative, were it passed, would take precedence over the law.
The Hickman family operates Hickman's Egg Ranch, a fourth-generation family farm headquartered in Buckeye, Ariz.
Napolitano is now secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. n