Egg producers seek clarification on California hen cage rules

California egg producers lost Tuesday's battle over Proposition 2, which bans small cages for laying hens, but they are not done yet.

The measure's language is unclear about just what enclosures will be allowed as of 2015, when it takes effect, said Jill Benson, vice president of J.S. West & Cos. of Modesto.

She said the industry will seek clarification of the wording, possibly by a judge or state regulators, before deciding how to react.

The options include complying with the measure, if it is interpreted favorably, or moving the small-cage operations to other states or countries, she said.

"We as a company and as an industry still have a lot of questions," said Benson, whose business produces about 1.2 million eggs a day. "It's a very vaguely worded and poorly conceived initiative."

The measure took aim at standard industry cages that allow as little as 67 square inches of floor space per hen, less than a sheet of letter paper. Each cage typically has a half-dozen hens.

Proposition 2 requires that hens have enough space to stand up, turn around and flap their wings without touching each other or the cage walls.

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