Compromise made over cage size for hens

U.S. egg producers and animal welfare groups announced a compromise this morning on how much cage space to provide for hens.

Under the agreement, producers would work over 18 years to install cages that roughly double the industry standard of 67 square inches of floor space per bird.

The parties, including United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States, will ask Congress to set national standards.

The agreement would allow California producers to have cages somewhat smaller than the national standards for a few years.

This would allow continued use of the cages that J.S. West & Cos. installed last year for some of its hens near Livingston. Those cages were aimed at complying with state Prop. 2 of 2008.

The parties, in announcing the agreement in Washington, D.C., said they hope to get past their often-bitter battle over hen welfare.

The industry has long argued that the 67-square-inch standard was a humane way of treating birds that literally flock together.

The Humane Society has said hens need much more space to engage in their natural behavior.