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Cage fight

(article, Culinate staff)

Four years ago, California passed a bill that promised factory-farmed chickens bigger cages. (That's right: not cage-free, necessarily, but more room to roam.) And until it died yesterday in the Senate, efforts were underway to pass a federal law along the same lines. 

What's confusing this time around was the fact that some animal-rights groups supported the bigger-cage campaign, while others took a no-cages stance. The Humane Society, for example, has endorsed the bigger cages, while the Humane Farming Association has posted a video denouncing the very concept of cages.

As the Associated Press recently reported, many players in this game have switched sides over the years. The Humane Society, the AP noted, "prefers doing away with cages altogether but sees this compromise bill as a way to improve the standard of living for hens across the country." Meanwhile, Big Ag has its own combatants. The egg-industry organization United Egg Producers opposed the California bill, but supported the federal bill as a way to avoid a maze of differing regulations from state to state. Meat producers, however, fought the federal bill, fearing its passage would encourage more regulation in their own industry.

As with the McDonald's plan to forgo gestation crates in the pork industry, the proposed federal chicken-cage bill didn't promise too much, too soon; even if it had passed, the chicken-keeping industry would have had 15 years to clean up its act. That's a lotta chickens.