In July, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed HB20-1343 into law, making Colorado the ninth US state to pass egg-laying hen confinement restrictions. The new law requires egg farmers with more than 3,000 hens to provide caged birds with at least 1 square foot of floor space by 2022, and to convert to cage-free housing by 2024. Additionally, the law prohibits the sale of eggs produced in violation of these standards and requires farmers to provide hens with enrichments such as scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust-bathing areas that allow them to exhibit natural behaviors.
Colorado wasn’t the only state eyeing anticonfinement legislation this session. Similar bills were introduced and made headway in Arizona, Hawaii, and Maine, before the COVID-19 outbreak became the focus of most state legislatures. Pressure from states, consumers, and the over 200 companies that have committed to sourcing cage-free eggs has pushed the egg industry to ramp up its transition to cage-free housing. Recent data published by the US Department of Agriculture shows that roughly 27 percent of the nearly 320 million egg-laying hens in the United States are housed in cage-free systems, up from 12 percent in 2016 and 4 percent in 2010.