A nationwide poll earlier this year found that a majority of Americans are losing trust in our food system. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the number of food safety scandals and exposés showing routine animal abuse by large meat, dairy and egg companies. Massachusetts voters have an opportunity to address these concerns by voting “yes” on Question 3, which will help give residents of the Commonwealth access to safe, affordable and responsibly-produced food.
Question 3 would simply ensure that meat and eggs produced and sold here come from facilities that give animals enough space to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs. The vast majority of the eggs, veal and pork sold in Massachusetts come from industrial “factory farms,” many of which confine animals in ultra-restrictive conditions. For example, breeding pigs and calves raised for veal are often forced to live in crates barely larger than their bodies, too small to even turn around. And the vast majority of egg laying hens spend their days in feces-encrusted, barren cages. Each bird has less space than an iPad.
Reducing animal suffering is reason enough to vote yes on Question 3, and it will benefit the health of Massachusetts residents.
The Center for Food Safety, the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest endorse Question 3 because treating farm animals better leads to improved food safety. The Center for Food Safety says, “caged hens have consistently presented a higher risk of Salmonella than cage-free hens, indicating a strong connection between cages and pathogen contamination … [and] the fact remains that in terms of potential Salmonella contamination, eggs from caged hens are simply more dangerous than their cage-free counterparts.”
This issue has profound real-world consequences for our families. A few years ago, a Massachusetts girl was hospitalized due to a massive Salmonella outbreak that stemmed from egg facilities that cage hens. The federal government estimates that up to 56,000 additional Americans were also sickened. The violations were so flagrant, the CEO of the facilities that produced the eggs was sentenced to jail time. And earlier this year, The Humane Society of the United States documented extreme animal abuse and food safety risks at another facility connected to the same CEO and selling eggs to New England consumers. The video footage shows hens forced to live and lay eggs for human consumption on top of the decaying carcasses of their dead cage-mates. The HSUS also found poisoned rodents in the birds’ cages.
While some out-of-touch, Midwest-based corporations are funding a misinformation campaign about the effects of Question 3 on egg prices, the egg industry’s own studies show that going cage-free costs about only a penny more per egg. More than 200 of the world’s largest grocery and restaurant companies, including Walmart, Dollar Tree, Taco Bell and Dunkin Donuts, are already switching to 100-percent cagefree eggs. McDonald’s even announced that its shift to cagefree eggs won’t cause its restaurants to raise prices by even a penny.
Many forward-thinking food producers find that treating animals better actually results in cost-savings over the long-term. A pork industry study determined it can cost 11 percent less to provide breeding pigs with more humane housing. More than 100 Massachusetts farmers have endorsed Question 3 because they know treating animals with decency is not only ethical, but also smart business.
Two-thirds of Massachusetts voters tell pollsters they plan to vote yes on Question 3, and it’s not hard to see why. People of every political leaning want to know the food they’re feeding their families is safe, affordable and doesn’t cause unnecessary animal suffering. Passing Question 3 would mark a major step in that direction.