Senate panel debates living spaces for egg-layers

The freedom of a hen to move around freely became an issue of congressional concern as a Senate committee discussed legislation to set national standards for the treatment of egg-laying hens.

The debate over how much space hens should have in their coops has drawn the attention of other livestock producers who fear that they'll be a target of animal welfare advocates. It has also become a states' rights issue as some states try to impose tougher standards on eggs coming from other states.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California told the Senate Agriculture Committee that her bill to set national standards would increase the size of henhouses and require egg labeling so consumers will know how the hens were raised.