(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Major grocery stores will only be able to sell cage-free eggs due to HB20-1343, which passed in 2020.
“So beginning of the first of this year, eggs in Colorado have to comply with… cage-free requirements,” said Deputy Commissioner of Operations for Colorado Department of Agriculture, Hollis Glenn.
This new law requires cage-free housing for egg-laying hens.
“Currently, right now, the industry is doing a step-up provision in the regulation in which right now there has to be the equivalent of one square foot of usable floor space per laying hen to create more room in the barns for the… laying hens that would essentially allow for them to then begin the transition in 2025 to fully cage-free,” Glenn said.
What does this mean when shopping for eggs at the supermarket? Major grocery stores can only sell eggs that are cage-free.
“So all the eggs in those retail stores would probably be, should be, cage-free,” Glenn said. “Going to a local neighborhood grocery store or convenience store that may not have the volume to cross that threshold of cases sold per week. They would have that option to have eggs that are not cage-free as well.”
In Colorado Springs, Bread and Butter Neighborhood Market sells groceries from local farmers and producers.
“We’ve always had a policy since we opened to try to buy from Colorado producers first,” said Aubrey Day, Co-Owner of Bread and Butter Neighborhood Market. “So that’s where we always start and then we go from there to sort of fill in, to have a full selection for our grocery store.”
Bread and Butter had several cartons of eggs available for purchase on Tuesday evening.
“I think people are a little freaked out at the possibility of not being able to get eggs,” Day said. “And, you know, we always sell eggs pretty consistently but never like we have in the last week or so. And I think it’s just because they can’t get it at those bigger stores where they might typically get them. And so turning to us, because we’re a small store, we can buy from some smaller distributors and have been able to get eggs when maybe the big guys haven’t been able to.”
Day said the most popular brand of eggs is from an Amish farm down in the Arkansas Valley called Yoder Eggs.
Bread and Butter Market is exempt from following this new law.
“We are exempt from the law like I said because we’re a smaller store we can get from some of those smaller distributors anyway,” Day said. “And so we don’t expect it to impact us too much, only maybe in the fact that people can’t get them where they typically are getting them.”
Another exemption for this law applies to farms with 3,000 or fewer egg-laying hens is also exempted from following this law.
Aaron Rice is the owner of Jodar Farms located in Fort Collins. Rice explained the animals on the farm are raised with the pasture model.
“So all of our chickens are actually outside, not just given access to the outside, they’re actually, you know, roaming free in the fields,” Rice said.
When asked how he felt about this new law, Rice said he had mixed feelings about it.
“First of all, I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Rice said. “We as farmers, the way that we farm, you know, we value the animal and… we give them the respect that they need. Cage-free is a step in the right direction from, you know, being in battery cages. However… it doesn’t do a whole lot in terms of the industry and the welfare of the chicken. You know, there’s still going to be chickens…piled inside of large barns that are still laying eggs, you know, side by side with other chickens.”
The avian flu has also impacted egg production and shoppers have seen a rise in the price of eggs.
“I’m assuming most of the price increase that people are seeing right now is not necessarily due to the change from cage-free,” Rice said. “It has more to do with there’s just a general supply issue with eggs due to Avian Flu. And then we also do have really big feed price increases over the last two years that have really made the price of eggs go up as well.”
The Colorado Department of Agriculture shared 5 million laying hens were impacted by the avian flu.
“Just by the fact that these outbreaks are occurring here in Colorado as well as around the country, is having a devastating impact on egg producers and the flocks that they have, with… a lot of laying hens,” Glenn said. “Unfortunately, succumbing to the disease and dying and so we’ve seen, I think, over 5 million laying hens here in Colorado impacted by a high path A.I..”
When shopping for produce, Rice said it is important to know who they are purchasing from.
“So I’d encourage the consumer to continue to do what they’re doing already, which is care about where their food comes from, start doing research into where they can find local eggs, but also local meat,” Rice said. “Because the industry is you know, these industries are starting to get dominated by, you know, these big players.”