DENVER, Colo. — More changes are coming to your local grocery store. Starting Jan. 1, 2023, the state of Colorado will prohibit the sale of eggs that are not cage-free.
House Bill 20-1343 requires all eggs sold at grocery stores to come from cage-free hens. That means Colorado egg producers need to make required changes too.
"By including enrichments such as scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing, cage-free housing allows hens to exhibit their natural behaviors," said Julie Mizack, egg program manager at the Colorado Department of Agriculture in a statement after the law was signed.
Penalties could cost a store or producer up to $1,000 per violation, but state officials are allowing the next two years to serve as a transitional period to allow the required changes to be made.
Starting in 2023, enclosures can be no smaller than 1 square foot per hen. By Jan. 1, 2025, Colorado farms must allow their chickens to be free roaming with the exception of exterior walls on the housing structure and some interior fencing. Workers should also be able to stand up while they're in the chicken's space.
The decision is seen as a big win by animal advocates. CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Kitty Block, wrote a blog post about the new law saying in part, "This is yet another striking victory in our campaign to eradicate cruel cage confinement for farm animals."
For many families struggling to find cheaper eggs on store shelves due to inflation and avian flu impacts, the idea of fewer choices is worrying. Some are also concerned that the cost of the changes for farmers may get passed along to consumers.
"Compared to cage free eggs, it's one dollar, two dollars more already. How is that even fair to people that can't afford it?" asked Ashley Logan who also does grocery shopping through a delivery app. She went on to say, "I've had people, when I've called them and told them [cage-free] are the only eggs they have, they say, 'No, just refund me.' It would probably cause a lot of issues."
Any Colorado farm that has fewer than 3,000 egg laying hens does not need to follow the new requirements.