The House passed a bill Wednesday aimed at avoiding any disruption in the supply of eggs and pork to Massachusetts next year by updating the 2016 ballot law that set standards for how hens, pigs and veal calves could be raised.

The bill, a version of which passed the Senate in June, cleared the House 156-1. While the ballot stipulates that egg-laying hens should be given at least 1.5 square feet of floor space, the bill would allow the birds to be kept in vertical aviaries with just 1 square foot of floor space and “unfettered access to vertical space.”

Proponents say the change will put Massachusetts in line with other larger egg-producing states that have also put in place standards for hen confinement.

The lack of uniformity, they said, threatens to disrupt the supply of eggs to Massachusetts beginning next year, when the law takes effect.

The House legislation would ensure that hens producing eggs for “egg products,” such as liquid eggs and unshelled eggs, are protected under the law, and would delay by one year the implementation of captivity standards for pigs to avoid disruptions in the supply of products like bacon to restaurants and grocers.

“Passage of this bill is time sensitive and is essential to protecting our fragile food supply chain when food insecurity is as high as ever,” Rep. Carloyn Dykema said, explaining the bill on the floor.

The House and Senate must now negotiate any differences between the two versions before legislative can move a consensus bill to Gov. Charlie Baker for his consideration. Rep. Susannah Whipps, an Athol independent, cast the only no vote. 

(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.

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