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Baker urges lawmakers to get cracking on compromise egg legislation

Governor Charlie Baker.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker is calling on the Massachusetts Legislature to get cracking on compromise legislation to shore up the state’s egg supply, as the industry warns that in just a couple weeks, the vast majority of eggs will disappear from store shelves.

“We all want to have a bill on my desk this week or next, and I’m confident lawmakers can set aside their differences and get it done soon,” Baker added.

Without legislative action, new requirements will go into effect in January governing the treatment of hens whose eggs are sold in Massachusetts. The egg industry warns that the standard is strict enough to destroy the state’s market, stripping some 90 percent of eggs from store shelves and driving up prices. The change would also impact restaurants, which could be forced to travel out of state to secure the necessary quantity of eggs.

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The Massachusetts House and Senate, as well as egg industry groups and a number of animal welfare organizations, agree on a different standard for the hens, one the industry says would keep the supply stable if implemented. But that consensus provision is contained within a broader animal welfare bill, and lawmakers in the House and the Senate are split on another part of the legislation: the timeframe for implementing higher treatment standards for pigs whose pork is sold in Massachusetts.

The flap dates back to a 2016 ballot measure. Massachusetts voters that year overwhelmingly approved a new law that required all pork, veal, and eggs farmed and sold in Massachusetts to come from livestock that was not confined to ultratight quarters. The change was set to go into effect in 2022, giving suppliers ample time to adjust to the new standards — and state lawmakers ample time to make any tweaks they considered necessary.

The problem, according to the egg industry, is that over the past five years, the industry standard has evolved. Massachusetts voters backed a required space of 1.5 square feet per bird. Now, both the egg industry and many animal welfare groups support a Massachusetts law requiring just 1 square foot per bird in a “multi-tier aviary,” which would allow hens room to move vertically but require less floor space.

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State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Carolyn Dykema, the Democrats leading negotiation efforts on the bill, both said discussions are ongoing, and acknowledged that the issue is time sensitive.

No word on whether Baker egging on lawmakers will speed up their deliberations.


Emma Platoff can be reached at emma.platoff@globe.com. Follow her @emmaplatoff.