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Archive for April 8th, 2011

Senate Bill 805 - Bureaucracy In Action

I’m talking about the Oregon legislature!

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself and should provide background on Senate Bill 805.

In the U.S., 78.5 billion eggs were produced for eating in 2010. The breakdown is that 2.5 billion were exported, 6.3 billion went to food service use, 24.8 billion were processed into liquid, dried, and frozen products and 44.9 billion went to retail.  There are 187 companies who “lay” claim to about 95% of egg-laying hens in the U.S. Thirteen of these manage flocks of more than 5 million and sell specialty eggs under other names. Cal-Maine Foods, the country’s largest egg producer, owns the brands Eggland’s Best, Farmhouse, and 4-Grain.  Oregon (2.5M) doesn’t even make the top 10 producer list (as measured by number of egg laying hens) and the top 5 egg production states are Iowa (54M), Ohio (27M), Pennsylvania (23M), Indiana (23M) and California (19M).  In fact, at retail, more and more businesses and consumers are demanding organic eggs from hens that are either cage-free (hens able to run about inside huge chicken houses but not outdoors) or free-roaming (hens have access to the outdoors for at least 51% of their lives (~18 months, but there are no regulations on the quality or size of the open-air space)).

It turns out the tastiest, healthiest, most humanely produced eggs come from your local farmer’s free-roaming small flock.  Eggs contain varying amounts of 39 vitamins and minerals—many of which don’t even make it onto the nutrition facts label. Some eggs are healthier than others and it’s really all about what the hens are fed, which ranges from corn and soybean meal to a chicken’s more natural diet: a blend of grains and whatever the hen finds by foraging the pasture.  Again, egg nutrition value is determined by the feed, not breed.

Oregon’s Senate Bill 805 (SB 805) provides hens with a few more inches of space for laying eggs, but may well cost the farmers (which will be passed on to consumers) who will need to purchase/prep for the incremental space mandate.  It’s hard to imagine given the current budget issues facing the state how this matter rises to the level of debating a bill that is largely being determined by consumer purchases of the best tasting eggs.  But, I’d like to congratulate the Oregon legislature for displaying so much intellectual honesty, storming the farmland and solving an issue that isn’t even a problem. It’s another “teachable moment” for those who went to Salem for a life-long political career to do nothing.

I’d bet a Grande Coffee at Starbucks that the next bill after SB 805 will be mandating the quality and size of the open-air space.  Maybe they’ll even look to mandate ambient noise levels so the hens can breathe without excessive sound…hopefully no flocks are near a highway where a group of motorcycles may travel as OSP will be ask to single out motorcycles and set up an EPA-compliant exhaust check point!

The point of this post is not directly related to the Oregon egg industry, but about the unending government proposals, rules, and regulations that affect or creep into the motorcycle lifestyle.  Today there is more bureaucracy about eggs/hens and the amount of breathing space.  Tomorrow it’s about how and what we ride and drive. From taking away off road land areas, to the Federal Register re-defining what is a motorcycle, to performance modifications, and denial of insurance benefits — everywhere you look there is a current or proposed law that will negatively impact all of us. Every day as a result of the current economic collapse I get reports about home foreclosures and short sales, but Oregon lawmakers would rather waste tax payer money debating topics on chickens vs. being “compassionate” to the residents of the state.  Is a chicken’s well being more important?

All this ranting and talk of eggs in the morning made me hungry.  Who’s up for breakfast?!

Photo courtesy of the egg industry.  Fun fact: Did you know that 300,000 eggs go to Peg’s Glorified Ham N Eggs on South Sierra Street in Reno, NV., every year, where they are transformed into heaping breakfast platters piled with hash browns and homemade salsa.

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