A new economic study shows U.S. consumers would pay $2.6 billion more each year for eggs if animal rights activists succeed in forcing farmers to house laying hens in cage-free systems. Promar International, the Washington , D.C. , economic consulting firm that performed the analysis, calculated federal spending on food assistance programs for children and the needy also would increase by $169 million annually as a result of higher egg prices.

Study authors predict such a dramatic price increase could open the door to a sharp rise in egg imports from other countries. There are virtually no eggs imported by the U.S. today. United Egg Producers (UEP) President Gene Gregory said more imports likely would increase the carbon footprint of a dozen eggs due to the long distance transportation required.

Bans on modern, sanitary egg housing systems are being implemented in California over the next five years, and in Germany and other European countries during the next few years. Animal activist groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States , spent millions of dollars convincing California voters to ban several scientifically proven production systems used in animal agriculture. UEP indicates the bans won’t necessarily improve the health and welfare of chickens and may have negative consequences for the environment and food prices.

USDA statistics show, on average, grade A “regular” eggs cost $1.00 per dozen in early September compared to $1.59 per dozen for cage-free eggs. The cage-free option costs more due to requirements for more land, labor, energy and feed per hen. Cage-free systems also experience more diseases and higher mortality rates.

Americans currently have the right to choose between eggs from sanitary cage housing systems, cage-free eggs or free-range eggs. About 95% buy the conventionally produced option as a low-cost source of high-quality protein.

For more information visit www.kla.org.