Humane Society: ‘Cage-free’ costs for Mass. farm animals minimal


A new proposal in Massachusetts that would require farm owners to have “cage-free” animals would have minimal impact on the cost of raising chickens, said a representative from the Humane Society on Boston Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting” program.

Paul Shapiro told Herald Radio’s Hillary Chabot and Joe Battenfeld that the estimated increased cost of the new measure on chicken farm owners in particular would amount to a penny an egg. Here are excerpts from his interview:

Q: Basically, this is going to encourage cage-free chickens, right, Paul?

A: The proposed measure, which, if we gather enough signatures will be on the November 2016 ballot, would essentially require that certain farm animals must be able to engage in some pretty basic behaviors. They must be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their wings. In other words, they couldn’t be crammed into these tiny cages where they’re essentially immobilized their whole lives, like many of them are today.

Q: What animals would this apply to, and would this basically ban cage-free animals in Massachusetts or ban the state from getting any meat that’s not cage-free?

A: There are three types of animals who this would really benefit and prevent this type of cruelty to them. The first is animals in the veal industry, these calves are oftentimes kept crammed into cages so tightly, they’re unable even to turn around for their whole lives. ... Similarly, in the pork industry, many pigs are kept in crates barely larger than the [size] of their own bodies ... And chickens in the egg industry, who are kept in these cages so small, they can’t even spread their wings. In fact, each bird in one of these cages, it’s typical in the egg industry, is given less than an iPad’s worth of space to live on.

Q: If you start to mandate that the state only buy this meat and eggs that are cruelty free, isn’t that going to drive the price?

A: It really won’t, Joe. In fact the egg industry did an economic analysis looking at what it would cost egg producers to go cage-free. And what they found is that it’s about a penny an egg more ... The pork industry study found that it might even cost less, not more but less, not to lock these pigs in crates, because so many fewer of them die early when they’re allowed to move around rather than being confined so restrictively. And so, sure, and maybe the case (can be made) that this could raise the cost of eggs for producers by a few pennies per dozen, but the hidden cost ... is increased animal cruelty and increased food safety risk.”