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What LA Chefs Think About California’s New Cage Requirements for Livestock

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Proposition 12 passed this week, and will affect the supply for eggs, pigs, and calves raised for veal

Egg chicken farming background. Eggs in try and chicken eating food at farm.
Theeraphong via Shutterstock

Californians had their say about Proposition 12 on Election Day. The new law requires the livestock industry maintain minimum cage size requirements for pigs, and calves raised for veal. Prop 12 also mandates that all eggs sold in California be cage-free by 2022.

It’s a dramatic shift for animal welfare, and when the law takes effect will designate California as one of the strictest in the nation. Two-thirds of California’s hens are caged, and now farmers are now required to include one square foot of floor space by 2019, with a deadline of 2021 to become cage-free. As for calves raised for veal and pigs, calves will need a 43 square feet pen, and a 24 square feet pen for pigs by 2022, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Prop 12 will likely bring price increases to LA restaurants, as most analysts believe the new costs will be handed down to consumers. Eater spoke with two local chefs to see how they feel about Prop 12’s passing, and what these changes could mean for dining out in Los Angeles.

Becky Reams, Lately

“As a chef, it’s our honor and responsibility to work with products that have been raised or grown responsibly and with care. I’ve always been a proponent of cage-free facilities and only use cage-free eggs in my cooking. I’m happy to see Prop 12 pass, even if it means prices for chicken, pork, and veal go up. It’s a small expense to pay, knowing your food is being raised in a safe and healthy environment. Also, reducing imports for some products means we’ll have more incentive to work locally with farmers.”

Royce Burke, Yarrow

“I think it is a step in the right direction for both the egg and meat industries. It is very easy for us as restaurateurs and consumers to only look at the higher cost and how it affects our bottom line, but it is important to remember that the products we use come from somewhere. I had egg laying chickens growing up, and I can’t imagine them in a cage that is one square foot? It will take a lot to help the average consumer who has grown used to meat and eggs being shrink wrapped understand that these items will be more expensive but they will be a better quality. It’s also a vital step in the process of reforming the meat production industry. People need to make the connection between what’s served to them in a restaurant or sold in the supermarket aisle and the animals these products come from. I am by no means vegetarian but we have to start taking steps to value quality food correctly and if that means eating less meat, so be it!”

Jason Fullilove, Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, The Parlor, Barbara Jean

“I think it’s a step in the right direction. But it doesn’t specify how much room the chickens get to roam or if their even allowed outside the barn. I would hope the goal is to get so selling “Pasture Raised Eggs” which means the chickens get to roam free, forage, and have ample fresh foods to pick. I only used good eggs at all my locations. The happier the live stock the better the product”