Chicken Law in High Court

Like many issues that are eventually argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, it started with a well-meaning California law, in this case requiring that chicken producers give their hens enough space, well, to not be packed in like chickens.

Alabama and eleven other states joined together in December asking the highest court in the land to strike down the 2015 law, saying it has cost egg-buying consumers nationwide up to $350 million annually. California’s chicken lifestyle requirements violate the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and should be overruled by federal law, the suit claims.

A similar claim brought last year by six states was rejected in federal appeals court, with a ruling that the states failed to prove California’s law would impact more than just individual farmers. The latest lawsuit seeks to leap frog over the appellate level and go directly to the Supreme Court.

California lawmakers cited concern about salmonella and other illnesses as the basis of the law but others say those concerns are overblown and the law unfairly protects California’s agriculture industry.

Poultry is Alabama’s largest crop, representing a $15 billion annual business and employing 85, 000 people, primarily in Cullman, DeKalb and Marshall counties.

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Text by Dave Helms

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