California Clucking Around With Egg Law

Chicken-statue405tallUnsatisfied with merely increasing the price of eggs in their own state, Californians want to raise egg prices in yours as well. But some states are fighting back against this unconstitutional and elitist agenda.

Six states are suing California over a law the state passed to cover itself against its Proposition 2 (2008) ballot measure regulating the size of hen cages. California legislators, fearing the destruction of the state’s egg industry under the animal-liberation-backed measure, responded as only California-legislator logic would allow: By proposing to hurt all farmers in the country equally in order to level the playing field. Hence, in 2010, California passed a companion bill requiring all eggs sold in the state to comply with Prop 2 standards as well.

A California Assembly Committee even admitted on the record, “The intent of this legislation is to level the playing field so that in-state producers are not disadvantaged.” Translation: Pay more for your omelet, America.

But there’s a catch to California’s cunning plan: The U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which forbids individual states from regulating interstate commerce. (Only the Feds can do that.) Missouri, Alabama, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Nebraska have filed suit against California, arguing that the provision violates the Commerce Clause. “We can’t have our farmers and ranchers at the whim of California’s voters,” said Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning.

But in a desperate attempt to uphold the regulation’s legality, advocates are jumping on the “public health” exemption in the Commerce Clause, saying that hen cage regulation protects consumers from salmonella and thus is legal. Unfortunately for them, there is no scientific consensus that salmonella incidence is related in any way to cage size.

Even anti-food activists can’t agree that there’s a food safety effect from cage size. Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the notoriously anti-food-pleasure Center for Science in the Public Interest, says, “Studies from the U.S. have shown higher rates of [salmonella] infection from cage-free birds.” And even California’s own Health & Human Services Agency proclaims, “Scientific evidence does not definitively support this conclusion” that giving hens more space reduces salmonella incidence.

Though these findings should take the wings out of the law’s “public health” rationale, unconstitutional Californian elitists are unlikely to let science get in their way of shaping society as they see fit. Federal courts, however, may beg to differ.


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