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Introduced by Representatives Hosford of Waitsfield and Masland of Thetford

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Agriculture; confinement of hens; cage‑free eggs

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to prohibit intensive confinement of egg‑laying hens and to direct the state to purchase only cage‑free eggs.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:


The general assembly finds:

(1)  Vermont is known for its high‑quality agricultural products and Vermonters take pride in buying fresh, healthy food from local producers. Vermont farmers have benefited in recent years from consumer trends in the rapidly expanding organic food markets.  Cage‑free eggs are gaining momentum as consumer demand continues to grow across the nation.

(2)  About 95 percent of the roughly 300 million hens in the United States are confined in barren wire battery cages so restrictive that birds do not have enough space to spread their wings.  In fact, each hen is allotted less than an 8.5 inch by 11 inch space, smaller than a standard sheet of paper, in which to live out her entire life.

(3)  Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings, Inc. recently announced that it will be phasing in the exclusive use of cage‑free eggs in all of its ice cream products.  Burlington‑based Bruegger’s Bagels is starting a cage‑free egg pilot program by switching its egg supply to cage–free sources in all of its stores in Wisconsin.  Students at the University of Vermont and Middlebury College are working with administrators to implement exclusive cage‑free egg policies, while Vermont Law School has already implemented a cage‑free egg policy.  Over 100 universities nationally have enacted policies to eliminate or drastically reduce their use of battery‑cage eggs.

(4)  Regulations on battery‑cage space allowances would have minimal to no impact on most egg farmers in Vermont as only two battery operations exist in the state, and one already has a cage‑free production unit. 

Sec. 2.  6 V.S.A chapter 216 is added to read:



(a)  For the purposes of this section:

(1)  “Egg‑laying hen” means a female domesticated chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl used for the purposes of egg production.

(2)  “Living space” means any cage, crate, or other structure used to confine caged egg‑laying hens.

(3)  “Person” shall have the same meaning as in subdivision 351(3) of this title.

(b)  No person may confine any caged egg‑laying hen, for all or the majority of the day, to a living space that does not allow each caged egg‑laying hen sufficient space to extend fully both wings without touching the sides of the living space or other birds except as provided by subsection (c) of this section.

(c)  This section shall not apply to the confinement of caged egg‑laying hens in such circumstances that may occur during individualized veterinary care by a licensed veterinarian though not to exceed 10 consecutive days, confinement during the first 10 days of the hen’s life, lawful transport, lawful slaughter, or lawful state or county fair exhibition.

(d)  Whoever willfully violates this section shall be fined not less than $200.00 and not more than $500.00 for each day that a violation occurs.

Sec. 3.  29 V.S.A. § 909 is added to read:


(a)  For the purposes of this section:

(1)  “Cage‑free hen” means a female domesticated chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl confined under conditions that are permitted pursuant to 6 V.S.A. § 5001.

(2)  “Egg” means the shell egg of the domesticated chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl.

(b)  Notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary, no eggs shall be purchased for departments, offices, institutions, and other agencies of the state and counties unless such eggs are produced by cage‑free hens.

(c)  This section shall apply to purchases made pursuant to this chapter, including but not limited to:

(1)  Purchases by the commissioner of buildings and general services.

(2)  Purchases by governmental agencies to which purchasing authority has been delegated pursuant to subsection 902(a) of this title.

(3)  Purchases through the general services administration or cooperative agreements with other states pursuant to section 903a of this title.

(4)  Purchases for public schools in the state pursuant to section 905 of this title.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont