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February 20, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is suing the state of California in response to that state’s laws regulating chicken farms. Missouri is home to 7 million egg-laying hens that produce 1.7 billion eggs per year, roughly 540 million of which are sold in California. If the law stands, local farmers would have to comply before they could sell there, and that could mean a lot of missed scrambles and Hollandaise.
In 2008, California voters approved a proposition that outlawed caging egg-laying hens in spaces that prevent them from turning around, lying down, standing up and fully extending their wings. Missouri has no such regulations.
Talk about ruffling feathers: chickens on large farms are kept in battery cages, which are rows of wire cages that usually are about 18 inches by 20 inches and house several birds. In the U.S., California and Michigan are the only states with laws regulating the space each chicken must have in a battery cage, but the Michigan statute doesn’t go into effect in 2019.
Missouri farmers might have to take a side on this issue, and it could be costly. Renovating their barns to comply with California standards could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but waiting for the lawsuit’s resolution means lost revenue from selling eggs in the interim in California.
So far this year, Koster has also filed lawsuits against a trash hauler in Butler County and a telemarketing company in California for calling Missourians whose numbers are on the No Call list.