Colorado Joins Cage-Free Egg Trend

From Jan. 1, Colorado will become one of a handful of states that will only allow the sale of cage-free eggs, but with this new mandate come some hefty price tags to match.

After a referendum passed by California voters in 2018 to outlaw cages, the state’s food prices have more than doubled. It has become common in the state for eggs to cost more than $5 a dozen on average. There is currently a $1.50 difference between a dozen eggs in Colorado and a dozen eggs in California.

Several other states have cage-free laws currently on the books or are in the process of enacting them, such as Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Nevada, Utah, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

The creation of a cage-free environment is a challenging task for farmers. According to CO Department of Agriculture egg program manager Julie Mizak, farmers must include scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, dust bathing, and housing that allows hens to exhibit their natural behaviors. Farmers must also use enclosures that are at least 1 square foot per hen and enable workers to stand upright in the space, and allow chickens to free roam within their enclosures.

Business owners and farms with fewer than 3,000 hens are excluded from the proposed guidelines. A two-year grace period will be granted to farmers and stores before fines of up to $1,000 are imposed by the state.

“This is yet another striking victory in our campaign to eradicate cruel cage confinement for farm animals,” said the CEO of the United States Humane Society Kitty Block.

Inflation-worried residents will likely see other factors bring up egg prices. “In the case of eggs, you have rapidly increasing market prices of corn or whatever it is that they eat, and that drives up the cost of feeding the chicken, which drives up the price of eggs, which drives up prices for American consumers,” Isabella Weber, an economist at UMass Amherst said.

As per the consumer price index for 2022, the cost of all food items increased by 10.9%.