Modesto's J.S. West debuts roomier new hen house
By John HollandModesto Bee
Published: Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2010 - 12:00 am Page 6B
LIVINGSTON – J.S. West & Cos. on Monday unveiled new housing for egg-laying hens that aims to meet the space standards approved by state voters in 2008.
The Modesto-based company completed the $3.2 million project in the face of criticism from the Humane Society of the United States, which argues that it falls short of what Proposition 2 will require as of 2015.
The barn, the first built in California since the measure was approved, will house about 132,000 hens, 8 percent of J.S. West's total flock. The company hopes to convert all of the barns on its three farms over the next five years.
"It's not without risk, but we decided we wanted to be committed to our state and to our family farms in the Central Valley," said Jill Benson, a vice president at the 101-year-old company.
The new enclosures provide an average of 116 square inches of floor space per hen. The industry standard is 67 square inches, which defenders say is a humane way to keep birds that tend to crowd together even in spacious quarters.
The Humane Society contends that hens need at least 216 square inches each to meet the measure's requirement for enough room to stand up, turn around and flap their wings freely.
"Giving each hen a paltry legal sheet of paper's worth of space is simply not compliant with California law, and it's ridiculous for J.S. West to spend millions of dollars to build a facility that will be obviously illegal in a few years," said Jennifer Fearing, senior state director for the group.
As 2015 approaches, Fearing said, the Humane Society "will indeed do everything in our power to make sure the law is not broken." Read More
The frustration from the HSUS over this new barn is the fact that their main goal was to eliminate animal agriculture in California, particularly chicken producers. So for this farm to re-commit to raising chickens is really irritating to them. The unfortunate part of everything is that now it’s not up to the HSUS or anyone else to decide how chickens can be raised in California, it will be up to a bunch of lawyers in a courtroom.