I was interviewed by Joshua Miller for a story in Boston Globe about an upcoming voter initiative in Massachusetts that would ban the sale of animal products that come from production systems that do not allow the animals to turn around or fully extend their limbs. As is usual in these stories, there is a lot of back and forth and speculation about the potential cost implications.
I'm happy to report that we don't have to speculate nearly as much. We now have some solid research on the topic related to the impacts of the animal welfare laws that went into place in California at the first of this year.
The first is a paper with Conner Mullally, where we use grocery store scanner data in California and non-California locations to study the change in egg prices caused by the new animal welfare laws in that state. We find the new laws increased egg prices in California by about $0.75/dozen. The abstract:
And a key graph:
The second paper, with Trey Malone, looks at price changes in California relative to the US overall using price reports from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (this data set doesn't have quantity or sales data). The abstract:
A key figure from the paper. Unlike the data directly from the retail level used in the first paper, these USDA-AMS data show CA and non-CA prices rising before the January 1 implementation date, though the gap between the two widens afterward.
It's comforting when you have two different papers using two different data sets and different methods that yield similar results. And it appears that the removal of the so-called battery cages in California have led to a price increase of $0.50 to $1.00 per dozen eggs. Given that our first study shows little movement in quantities, the data suggest the price change is a result of increased cost (or reduced supply) not because consumer demand for eggs increased as a result of the change in hen living conditions.