Most Americans don’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. In fact, most Americans spend a very small amount of their income purchasing all that food. We literally have the safest and most affordable supply of food in the world.
No doubt this abundance of food at relatively low costs has allowed, at least in part, the rise of the “foodie culture.” The idea is that we can have cheap, healthy food and also dictate the way it’s raised – even if for no other reason than we feel “good” about it. People want to romanticize about Old McDonald and his happy animal friends of yesteryear.
That’s exactly what happened with California voters passed new regulations for chicken farmers in 2008. The law requires that all chickens used for egg production in the state have a minimum cage size, according to the statute. Realizing that California farmers would be at a disadvantage once the new regulations went into effect, the stat’es legislature passed an additional law requiring all eggs sold in the state to meet the requirement. That means that it doesn’t matter where the eggs are produced — if you sell eggs in California, you have to have the larger cages.
In the meantime, California’s new regulations went into effect…and people are noticing the difference at the grocery store.
That’s because the price of eggs in California is now almost 300% higher than it was one year ago! “According to USDA, the average price for a dozen jumbo eggs in California is $3.16, up from $1.18/dozen a year ago.” (Source: Brownfield Ag News.)
That’s the thing – these regulations and “feel good” measures come with additional costs. An chicken producer in California has to choose how to proceed: either have less chickens in your facility or create additional space to accommodate the bigger cages. Either way, that means fewer chickens and fewer eggs at a higher cost.
Of course, for most California residents, it probably doesn’t even make a difference that the cost of eggs went up by $2. Big deal. Heck, if it wasn’t for people telling them about it all over the internet, they may not even be aware that the price of eggs went up!
But let’s think about who this actually hurts.
Those with the lowest income obviously spend a greater percentage of their income on food. Those same individuals are now going to see their grocery bill skyrocket and they will end up spending an even larger percentage of their income on food. That may work for the beach bums and starlets, but it doesn’t work so well for those families that don’t have the financial resources and are having to sacrifice to provide for their kids. To them, a couple bucks a week may actually make a big difference. Until now, eggs have been an affordable, healthy option for people to get a filling meal packed with protein.
California voters decided that giving a chicken a few more inches of cage space was more important than making sure there was an affordable and healthy source food choice for the state’s low income population.
But that’s okay; right? Because now all those Hollywood stars and high rollers in the state can feel good when they eat their eggs.
And, really, this is all about feeling good; right?