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Arizona Department of Agriculture Cage-Free Rules Challenged


Grant Krueger, owner of the Union Hospitality Group, comprising three restaurants, has legally challenged the rule issued by the Arizona Department of Agriculture mandating cage density and cage-free housing.


The Plaintiff stated that his Union Hospitality Group purchases close to 600 cases of eggs each year with an anticipated increase in cost in the region of $4,000 following the transition from conventional cages to alternative systems. In effect a nominal increase of 70 cents per dozen over his claimed volume would amount to $12,600 annually compared to cage-derived eggs


The Department of Agriculture as Defendants maintain that the Plaintiff alleges hypothetical future harm, and lacks standing. The regulation applies only to egg producers who may or may not increase the price of eggs to either food service or retail customers. 


To understand the substance of the case, some history is instructive.  In 2021, World Animal Protection indicated that it would mount a voter initiative in Arizona similar to California Proposition #2 and #12 to ban conventional cages.  The largest egg producer in the state at the time motivated legislation that would take effect in 2025. Despite the considerable lobbying clout of the egg producer the legislative initiative floundered. This resulted from concerted opposition by the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation.  The Department of Agriculture, recognizing the inevitability of a ballot initiative, introduced a rule that would have achieved the same objective as a law and accordingly promulgated housing standards.


In pleadings before the Maricopa County Superior Court, Assistant Attorney General Joshua Whitaker maintained that the rules issued by the Department of Agriculture are within the authority of the Agency.  According to Whitaker, the Legislature has authorized the Agency and Director, “To adopt rules for poultry husbandry in the production of eggs sold in the state.”  This apparently is the legal justification for the Agency to establish and issue standards conforming to other states.


The lawsuit does not address questions of welfare as a justification for changes but the case addresses the legality of the rules issued by the Arizona Department of Agriculture.