Restaurant owner files suit on behalf of his chickens

Howard Fischer 

Capitol Media Services

Saying the move is costing him money, the owner of three Tucson restaurants has filed suit to overturn rules designed to give egg-laying hens more room to move and stretch their wings.

Grant Krueger is arguing through his attorneys that the state Department of Agriculture did not have the authority to declare that laying hens have to be kept in cages that have at least one square foot — 144 square inches — of usable floor space. Prior to its implementation, cages could be less than half that size.

But that’s just the beginning. Under the same rule, by 2025 all major producers will have to go cage-free.

And that requirement also exists for out-of-state producers that want to sell their eggs in Arizona.

Krueger said what’s wrong with that, aside from the legal questions, is it is driving up his costs.

The state Department of Agriculture puts average annual per capita consumption at slightly more than 270 eggs a year. Figuring the new rules would add somewhere between a penny and 3.25 cents per egg, that comes out to somewhere between $2.71 and $8.79 a year.

But Krueger is operating three restaurants under the banner of Union Hospitality Group: Union Public House, Reforma Modern Mexican Mezcal + Tequila, and Proof Artisanal Pizza and Pasta. And he said he purchased 578 cases of eggs in a recent 12-month period, or 104,040 eggs.

Using that higher estimate, that increases his costs by $3,380.

And John Thorpe of the Goldwater Institute, one of the attorneys on the case, said this isn’t a choice that Krueger would have made.

“When purchasing eggs or egg products, Union Hospitality Group does not specifically seek out eggs produced in a cage-free manner,” the lawsuit says.

But what gives Krueger and his attorneys a legal basis to ask a judge to void the rules is the way the Department of Agriculture adopted it.

The background is political.


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November 2023