Eggs will largely disappear from Massachusetts grocery store shelves come Jan. 1, 2022, unless state lawmakers act quickly to amend a strict new animal welfare law.
What are the details?
In 2016, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed an animal treatment measure that, in part, made it illegal to sell eggs born of hens with less than 1.5 square feet of floor space in their enclosure. Now that decision, scheduled to take effect in 2022, is coming home to roost — and it's threatening to wipe out the supply of eggs in the state.
According to the Boston Globe, egg industry representatives such as the New England Brown Egg Council are predicting that the new rules will decrease the state's current egg supply by approximately 90%.
The council's general manager, Bill Bell, told the Globe that "retailers are in a huge quandary," adding, "you’re looking at just a huge shortage.”
"It'll be egg Armageddon if they don't fix the law," warned Steve Vendemia, president of Hillendale Farms in Connecticut, which boasts about 2 million chickens that produce eggs sold in Massachusetts supermarkets. Under the new rules, he won't be able to sell the product.
Brad Mitchell, head of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau, told WCVB-TV that the new rules will make it impossible for egg producers to keep up with the state's demand since, on average, chickens lay one egg per day and each resident eats one egg per day.
"We've got about 300,000 to 400,000 egg-laying chickens in Massachusetts. We've got about 7 million people, so do the math," Mitchell explained.
The new standards, which apply to all egg products, cover eggs imported from other states, as well.
"[It's] not just eggs. It's egg products, as well," Bob Beauregard, general manager of The Country Hen in Hubbardston, told WCVB. "So hard-cooked eggs, liquid eggs would all have to be removed from the shelf come Jan. 1 if the law does not change."
The state's Republican governor, Charlie Baker, voted for the ballot measure in 2016. But now he's joining the chorus of concerned residents. This week, he urged lawmakers to make necessary changes to ward off th embarrassing crisis.
“Everyone is already paying too much at the grocery store, and not addressing this egg supply issue will further drive up costs,” Baker tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "I urge lawmakers to reach consensus soon before these rules go into effect in January."
Boston.com reported that even some animal rights groups, such as the Humane Society, have come out in support of easing the standards to prevent chaos in the state's grocery stores.
Negotiations are reportedly underway in the state legislature to address the issue, but the clock is ticking.