Regulation

Crying Fowl

USDA poultry rules

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has outraged poultry farmers by proposing new regulations that will require them to identify every chicken transported across state lines unless it is part of a group that is hatched, raised, and butchered together. Most poultry farms are small commercial operations, and they often mingle chickens from different sources to benefit from economies of scale. The new regulations will force them to attach numbered leg bands to every bird they transport and keep detailed records confirming that they have done so.

The USDA, which keeps tabs on poultry-based diseases, argues that the regulations are necessary to ensure the "traceability" of livestock in the event of an outbreak. But a government-produced regulatory impact analysis accompanying the new rules does not attempt to quantify the benefits. Nor does it address the costs of compliance.

The costs to farmers could be considerable. Each chicken's tag will have to be changed repeatedly to accommodate leg growth during its eight-week life span. These changes must be documented, with the records retained for five years. U.S farmers raised and sold nearly 9 billion chickens in 2011.