Time for the chicken run

Oct 9, 2008

Proposition 2 continues to make news. Coverage of the initiative, which will set new standards for confining farm animals in California, in many cases mentions the UC Agricultural Issues Center research project that drew conclusions about the probable economic effects of the proposition's passage.

Here's a sampling of stories and editorials from the last week:

The Modesto Bee story noted that authors of the UC report explained why commercial egg operations started moving toward cages in the 1930s.

"Production of eggs in caged housing systems yielded significant labor and capital efficiencies. Furthermore, by separating laying hens from their manure, cages reduced the incidence of parasitic infections such as coccodiosis and roundworms," the Bee quoted the UC report.

Even the state's "Official Voter Information Guide" cites the UC research. Under the "Con" argument, it notes: "A UC Davis study says Proposition 2 eliminates California egg production."

A sunny approach to the topic was taken by The Union, which covers California's Nevada County. It ran a human interest story about a couple and their three children "scratching out a living" by producing free-range chickens. On their small farm, white Cornish Cross chickens peck freely at fresh grass and look for bugs and worms.

“They’re not only eating their ration, they’re eating their greens. They’re actually allowed to be chickens instead of being in a little box,” the story quoted farmer Brad Fowler. (A great last name for a chicken farmer!)

The Fowlers may start a subscription buyer program offering monthly boxes of pork, chicken and beef to customers who sign up for the season.

Cooperative Extension advisor Roger Ingram explained to reporter Laura Brown that such a program, unlike livestock auctions where buyers must order an entire animal, would cater to everyone, regardless the size of their freezers.

“You can buy as little or much as you want,” Ingram he was quoted.

And concerned buyers could rest assured about the animals' welfare, regardless of Prop 2's outcome next month.

“I think it’s a healthier way for us and the chickens. I don’t think I could raise them in cages,” Alana Fowler was quoted in the story.

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By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist