Monday, February 13, 2012

Egg Producer Agreement Shows the Value in Mediation

A recent NPR story provided a good synopsis of how the United Egg Producers (United Egg) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) came together to resolve their differences. Rather than spend millions of dollars fighting years of litigation over animal welfare, United Egg and HSUS signed an agreement that requires egg producers to increase cage sizes over next 10-15 years, and in exchange, the HSUS will retract its litigation talons (and likely sink them into something else).

As explained on NPR, the dispute between HSUS and United Egg was years in the making:
[Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS,] has been among that industry's fiercest critics. He took aim, specifically, at the industry's standard practice of crowding chickens into long lines of wire cages, with hundreds of thousands of birds in a single chicken house.
"I said that these factory farms were cruel and inhumane, no question about that," he says. "We're passionate about this issue. We want to see changes within this industry."
This did not stop Gene Gregory, president of United Egg from sending Mr. Pacelle a request “to talk.” The result:
Within a few months, the two sides came up with a compromise. They agreed to jointly lobby Congress for a law that would allow farmers to keep their chickens in cages, but the chickens would get twice as much space, plus perches and "nest boxes" where they could lay their eggs.
The changes will be phase in over the next 15 years.  The settlement now moves to Washington, D.C., where it must be approved due to antitrust concerns.

This story reminds me of the many mediations I’ve attended over the years. Mediation is a purely voluntary process, where litigants sit across the table from each other and, with the help of a neutral third party mediator, attempt to reach a compromise. Often times, as with the HSUS and United Egg agreement, the result is something that makes both parties equally unhappy, but as a result, a deal is struck. The alternative, potentially years of litigation, expensive discovery and trial preparation, and the possibility that a party might ultimately get nothing or lose everything, makes a compromise more desirable to both sides. The process is not always pretty, but it often works.

Read or listen to the entire NPR story here:  How Two Bitter Adversaries Hatched a Plan to Change the Egg Business.
The United Egg and HSUS agreement can be found here:  Historic Agreement. 


  1. This is the equivelent to negotiating with terrorist. That is what HSUS is, a domestic terrorist organization. Their goal is to end animal agriculture. period. This is just step one for egg producers, they will be back with more demands, more lawsuits, more intimidation. This also makes it more difficult for the rest of us in animal ag.

    1. Totally disagree. This is two traditional adversaries coming together to form a long term solution that will work for the entire industry. Why should the rest of ag care? This is something specific to the egg indsutry. How is this negotiating with terrorists? Isn't it possible that this could be what is best for egg laying hens? And, clearly, this agreement is not an attempt to end animal ag. If you think that, you are sadly misinformed.

  2. If you think HSUS cares at all about the welfare of the hen you are sadly mistaken, this is about ending animal agriculture, Wayne Pacelle himself says
    “We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States, Animal People, May, 1993. He is an avid Vegan, using HSUS to end animal agriculture while building his retirement. Besides, an agreement with HSUS does not guarantee any changes from Mercy for Animals or PETA or the rest of the terrorists. Any changes in Hen housing should be based on scientific research - not emotion. Until a year ago HSUS said only free range was good enough for hens, and if you have been around free range hens very ling you see it is not good for the hens or the eggs. Rob, you are the misinformed one, this is the way to put hundreds of houses out of production, reduce egg production and increase egg costs, which HSUS hopes will translate to less eggs consumed. UEP can see higher egg prices in their future...but proof that it is a win for hens is yet to be shown.


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