A piece from the Christian Science Monitor reports on how a growing animal welfare movement fueled by consumers is facilitating change among producers. Across the board – from consumers to producers to government agencies  – there is consensus that animal welfare concerns are an established and – growing –  issue in the U.S. food system.

The change is reflected in both required legislation and voluntary changes made by producers.

A handful of states, including California, have outlawed certain animal husbandry practices, including the use of cramped cages for chickens.  Suppliers are increasingly telling their producers to follow suit. Some producers see the changes as a way to distinguish and add value to their products.

California egg producer Frank Hilliker was initially angry about the proposed regulations presented by Proposition 2, and also concerned about the cost of retro-fitting his operation to bring it into compliance. Now he sees a marketing opportunity in the investment and changes in practice.

“In the beginning, I would imagine that 50 percent of these eggs [from Barn No. 5] will be sold as cage-free, and the others will be sold as just regular eggs,” he says. “But as word gets out, and people know I have them, I would assume that by the time I’m ready [to retrofit] my next barn, I’m not going to have enough [cage-free eggs].”

Bernard Rollin, an animal ethicist at Colorado State University says this:

“Consumers of animal products want assurance that animals live decent lives, and companies want to be perceived as being on the side of the animals.”

Polling bears this out. The Christian Science Monitor’s polling partner, TIPP, reported this:

“In a nationwide poll taken this year…56 percent of Americans said they would pay more money to know their eggs came from hens raised with enough space to stretch their limbs. And 49 percent said they would be willing to pay more for their bacon, ham, or pork if they knew it came from pigs whose pregnant mothers had been raised with enough space to stretch. “