Flying the coop? - Page 4

Proposal to ban cages in chicken farms pits efficiency against humane treatment

"One of my missions in life is to change the way animals are treated and how food is produced in this country," he says.

As part of the commission's research, Niman visited one of the nation's largest caged production houses in Colorado. Despite the state-of-the-art automated system, Niman was not impressed. "It's pretty hard to put a rosy picture of 1 million chickens living five birds to a cage with no room to move around or stretch their wings," he says. "If I ran the place, I'd have trouble sleeping at night."

Niman believes the public wants to see reform in the food production industry. He says that this measure, and any laws that improve animal welfare, will only expedite what would eventually come naturally due to consumer demand. "I'm not one to advocate more and more legisutf8g, but I also know what's going on out there," he says. "Change is so critical — and coming — that the sooner that change can begin, and the more orderly and methodical that change can be, the better off everyone will be."

Niman is part of a food movement centered around the Bay Area that includes author and University of California, Berkeley professor Michael Pollan, who also has expressed support for the measure. "The treatment [of hens] is important for reasons for morality, ethics, and sustainability," Pollan tells the Guardian, adding another ulterior motive for changing how hens are kept: "Eggs from hens that live outdoors on grass are a excellent product, even more nutritious and tasty." *

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