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Changing Appetite For Eggs Hatches New Problems For Farmers

PETALUMA (KCBS) -- The egg industry is in the midst of major changes.  Spurred by new laws in California and commitments from several major retailers and restaurant chains, many farmers are switching to more humanely raised 'cage free' eggs.

But, the humane methods come with their own issues.

"With the regulations that the egg producers have to abide by from an FDA standpoint for a safe egg supply, there still needs to be some level of control in the environment in which those birds are laying those eggs," Darrin Karcher, Poultry Extension Specialist at Michigan State University, told KCBS.

In order to do that, Karcher says farmers need production houses that can be managed. The houses typically include a large structure to let chickens roam free, and exhibit their 'dust bath' behavior on a dirt floor, with nesting boxes nearby.

That dirt floor is where the farmers can run into problems.

"What we found with our study was that you've got a fair amount of dust that the workers in the houses are actually exposed to," Karcher said.

That exposure can lead to health problems for both the workers, and the hens.

© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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