California’s Watershed 2015 Egg Law Faces Supreme Court Challenge

California's Watershed 2015 Egg Law Faces Supreme Court Challenge
iStock/stefanofiorentino

Twelve egg-laying states are challenging a 2015 California law, best known as Prop 2, that requires eggs produced and sold in the state to come from hens with enough cage space to fully stretch out their wings.

The lawsuit, filed by Missouri’s attorney general, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s law, citing that it violates the constitutional interstate commerce clause, which, as a federal law, preempts the California state ruling, the plaintiffs say. (Other states named on the suit are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.)

The plaintiffs say the law is also costing consumers nationwide –even those who don’t live anywhere near California — as much as $350 million annually in higher egg prices since the legislation went into effect more than two years ago.

A similar appeal was rejected last year by a federal appeal court panel, but the new lawsuit claims it has economic data to support its claims to prove the law unconstitutional.

Proposition 2 was a landmark piece of legislation that increased the cage space for egg-laying hens by nearly 70 percent. It paired in tandem with another regulation that also went into effect in 2015, AB 1437, which banned the sale of eggs in the state that came from small battery cages, which at the time, accounted for nearly 90 percent of the U.S. egg suppliers’ preferred method.

While cage-free eggs are quickly becoming a popular consumer choice, they’re only about ten percent of the U.S. egg supply currently, but with the move toward cage-free eggs by major food companies including McDonald’s and Nestlé, that number is expected to hit 45 percent by 2025.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.