By Carolyn Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle
WASHINGTON — Modesto egg farmer Eric Benson, chief executive of JS West, said Thursday he didn’t know if bigger cages made his hens happier, but he does know they lay more eggs, live longer and have stronger bones.
JS West even has a live webcam on its company site showing hens in cages where they can flap their wings, perch, scratch and nest on boxes, as California’s Proposition 2, approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008, will require starting in 2015.
“I have to say that all of those (behaviors) were a little bit surprising to me, as an egg farmer,” Benson said in an interview. “We’ve been in conventional production the whole time. I just didn’t really think they would use the enrichments, but they do.”
A live webcam in a chicken house is a turnabout from the gruesome undercover videos from animal rights groups showing strangled, mummified chickens packed tightly in cages.
Benson told the Senate Agriculture Committee that the nation should embrace humane standards for hens, under a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., based on Prop. 2. it would set a national standard of doubling the size of hen cages.
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