You will likely pay more for your eggs in about five years. And no, we’re not talking about inflation’s impact on the price of food. We’re talking about a new Oregon law that just about guarantees the price of eggs will go up.
The 2019 Legislature approved a bill that will require eggs sold in Oregon to come from hens that have been allowed to live their lives free of cages and overcrowding. Farmers who have to adjust to the new law, which doesn’t go into effect until 2024, will have to spend money to do so. Naturally, that cost will be passed on to egg-buying consumers.
We’re all for treating chickens and other animals humanely. That said, it’s difficult to see why it’s up to the state of Oregon to lead the way in absolutely everything, down to the housing of chickens. The bill does include exemptions, including for producers of relatively few eggs (3,000 per year).
While the Oregon Department of Agriculture will write the rules that make the law a reality, lawmakers gave ODA plenty of hints about what it wants, from scratching areas, perches and dust-bathing areas to unrestricted movement both indoors and out.
All well and good, and expensive. Cage-free eggs are substantially more expensive than standard eggs, and organic cage-free eggs are more expensive still. Shoppers who want them should be able to buy them. But people who don’t want to spend the extra money shouldn’t be forced to spend it anyway or quit eating eggs.
Lawmakers should have let consumers choose their eggs based on what matters to them, not what matters to the folks in Salem.