Farmers in Ohio have agreed to phase out the caging of chickens and pregnant sows, among other humane measures, to avoid a referendum on these issues that they feared they would lose. This follows the 2008 California vote that banned similar practices, and will no doubt lead to similar drives in other states.
I think this is a good thing; I already buy cage free eggs and chicken. The egg producers' association says prices will rise 25% as these rules are implemented, which is interesting, because the eggs I buy cost about 40% more than the regular ones. I guess I am paying a conscience premium. But I can well afford it, so there is no reason for farm animals to suffer confinement on my behalf. A rise of 25% in prices for meat and eggs would be a real burden on poor Americans, though, which is something we need to think about. But as Americans become more and more sensitive to the feelings of animals, it seems to me that factory farming as we know it simply cannot go on; the farmers interviewed by the Times sense this, too, and many of them will be happy to switch to more humane methods provided everybody else is required to do the same. I predict that in a generation factory farms will seem like the polluted rivers we once tolerated as the price of wealth, and that we will feel better for having left them behind even if that makes us a little less rich.