Possible Impacts of Massachusetts Ballot Question on Animal Welfare

Joshua Miler of the Boston Globe has a piece on a ballot initiative in Massachusetts.  He writes:

The proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative, backed by a coalition called Citizens for Farm Animal Protection, has met the first and most arduous signature-gathering hurdle to make the ballot and is expected to clear the other obstacles that remain to make the November ballot.

It would ban the production and sale in the state of eggs from hens and meat from pigs and calves kept in tight enclosures starting in January 2022. For selling of shell eggs in Massachusetts, each hen would have to have access to at least 1.5 square feet of usable floor space.

What are the possible cost implications?  

On the one hand:

a consulting firm being paid by advocates to conduct an economic analysis of the ballot question’s impact, said the price increase would be modest. He predicted something on the order of 1 or 2 cents per egg, 12 to 24 cents a dozen

On the other hand:

[a top executive at Sauder’s Eggs, a big producer in Pennsylvania which ships many eggs to Massachusetts] estimates that the Massachusetts ballot question would raise the price by 70 or 80 cents per dozen, maybe more.

Here was my take, as cited in the story:

Some experts in the field say the best place to look to compare prices is California, where the sale of eggs from hens kept in small “battery cages” became illegal at the start of last year.

In a recent paper, Jayson L. Lusk, a professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University, and another researcher used grocery store scanner data from California and other states to estimate how California’s animal welfare law changed the price of eggs. Per a dozen eggs, they found it raised prices by around 75 cents on average, a 22 percent increase over what the price of eggs would have been had the laws not gone into effect.

Lusk acknowledged that there are several confounding variables in extrapolating that data to Massachusetts, from last year’s avian influenza outbreak to Massachusetts importing more of its eggs than California (which could make the increase bigger) to the growth of the cage-free industry by 2022 (which could make the increase smaller).

But the overarching conclusion was clear.

“Egg prices are going to increase in Massachusetts” if the ballot measure passes, he said, “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. The question really is ‘how much?’ ”

The cited research papers are discussed in this post.