Following action by House and Senate lawmakers earlier this week, a bill to ensure a more secure egg and pork supply chain in the state, was signed into law Wednesday. The legislation updates Massachusetts’ farm animal welfare standards passed by voters in 2016 to align with other states.
“The pandemic has brought with it many challenges, with some being initially greater felt than others,” said Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury). “One such issue was access to affordable eggs and pork products, and this new law will ensure that the proper access remains for consumers and businesses throughout the Commonwealth. I am also incredibly pleased that we have been able to reinforce our commitment to making sure that the factory farming industry provides more humane standards for pigs, calves and egg-laying hens. I’d like to thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for their work on this issue.”
An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards updates a 2016 law passed by the voters of Massachusetts. It would align Massachusetts’ standards to that of other states by:
• Providing detailed cage-free standards that consist of one square foot of usable floor space per hen in multi-tiered aviaries, partially-slatted cage-free housing systems or any other cage-free housing system that provides hens with unfettered access to vertical space so that hens can engage in vital natural behaviors such as perching, scratching, dust bathing and laying eggs in a nest.
• Ensuring protections for various types of egg products. As passed in 2016, the law applied to shell eggs, but not egg products. This legislation would also cover egg products, mirroring legislation passed in other states.
The bill would also enhance market and regulatory certainty by:
• Delaying the effective date of the new standards for pork products to August 15, 2022, to allow the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) ample time to promulgate, and the industry to comply with, robust regulations. The ballot initiative passed in 2016 required regulations to be promulgated 2 years in advance of the effective date of the act in order to provide adequate time for affected industries to comply. This legislation gives producers not only more time to comply with the new standards but also an additional opportunity to participate in the updated regulatory process.
• Updating authority for promulgating rules and regulations to include both the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and MDAR. As passed in 2016, the law assigns to the Attorney General exclusive authority to promulgate rules and regulations as well as to enforce the law. This legislation would update the regulatory authority so that it’s shared between the AGO and MDAR. Enforcement authority would remain exclusively with the AGO. Many states with similar laws include their state department of agriculture in the regulatory process.
An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards is endorsed by New England Brown Egg Council, The Country Hen (a major egg producer in the Commonwealth), United Egg Producers, and the Massachusetts Food Association, which notes that the language in this legislation offers a “readily available solution” to ensure retail-endorsed cage-free standards. The bill also has the support of numerous animal protection organizations, including the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Animal Equality, Animal Outlook, The Humane League, Harvard Law School Animal Law & Policy Program, Mercy for Animals, Compassion in World Farming, and World Animal Protection—all groups that have been working to increase welfare for farm animals for decades.
Text of An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards can be found at malegislature.gov.