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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Egg Prices Rise As New California Regulations Kick In

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Some grocery stores, including this one in Salem, are warning customers of higher egg prices.

Get ready to shell out more money for eggs. Some Northwest stores are warning of higher egg prices as new regulations on hen houses take effect in California next month.

California will now require egg producers to give their hens room to spread their wings -- literally. The law applies to all eggs sold in that state. That means egg producers nationwide are scrambling to make sure their cages comply.

Jim Hermes is a poultry specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service. He said giving the hens more room increases their appetites.

"If you increase the amount of feed consumed by just one or two percent, that's a significant increase in the cost of production,” Hermes said. “And already the egg industry is working on a very low margin."

Hermes said relatively few Northwest eggs are exported to California so he expects any price hike to be moderate here.

Similar laws will take effect in Oregon and Washington but not until 2026. But unlike the voter-approved California law, the regulations in Oregon and Washington specify a minimum space for caged egg-laying hens: 116.3 square inches per bird. That standard follows a recommendation from the American Humane Association.

The regulations were approved by lawmakers in Salem and Olympia in 2011. The 15-year phase-in is meant to give egg producers in Oregon and Washington the opportunity to convert their facilities over time.