The old expression that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet might best apply to the compromise bill reached on Beacon Hill this week that loosens some of the restrictions in a 2016 voter-approved ballot question but still comes off as a minor victory if you’re a chicken confined in a cage on a large farm.

The referendum — backed by 77% of the voters that year — banned the sale of shelled eggs, veal and other meat produced by farm animals confined in cages.

The compromise reached in the Legislature was mainly focused on egg-laying chickens. The referendum approved in 2016 called for a minimum of 1.5 square feet per chicken for large “aviary systems” on egg-producing farms. With pressure from egg producers and food industry officials, lawmakers whittled down the square footage but kept the intent of the law clear, in the words of Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, to “preserve animal welfare while also meeting the needs of the consumers.”

The egg industry — we will resist dubbing it “big egg” — had declared that, if the tougher rules went into effect, Massachusetts would be an outlier and consumers would see egg shortages and higher prices at the grocery store.

William Bell, general manager of the New England Brown Egg Council, which supports the changes, told Statehouse reporter Christian Wade the legislative compromise “averted a very chaotic situation.”

With the change in square footage, eggs produced out of state could not be imported and sold here unless those producers met the standards. Bell said many suppliers had placed large orders for egg deliveries anticipating that lawmakers would update the law before it went into effect. They did, and as long as Gov. Charlie Baker signs the amendment into law, all those eggs will be “legal” to sell in the state.

So who is happy with this compromise? Many of those egg suppliers, for one, and some animal welfare groups, according to Wade. A lot of Massachusetts voters appear to be happy, too. A poll by the Humane Society earlier this year found 68% of Bay State voters who responded were in support of the changes.

Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, said that sending it to the governor’s desk at the 11th hour wasn’t ideal, but added, “It was important to get the details right, and I think we have been able to accomplish that.”

The bill also addressed the sale of pork products from “cruelly confined pigs,” something the pork industry had been pushing to delay. The compromise put implementation off for 7 1/2 months, not the 12 months big pork was seeking.

In this process of reaching the compromise, the Mass. Farm Bureau and the Humane Farming Association both voiced displeasure with this week’s agreement.

The Farm Bureau wanted the referendum implemented as approved, because they said many egg farmers in Massachusetts had already made costly changes to comply with the law.

The California-based Humane Farming Association criticized the compromise and questioned industry claims that there would have been egg shortages and high prices without the changes.

Bradley Miller, the association’s national director, said the compromise went against what a majority of voters intended.

“This is a devastating setback to farm animal protection and a major betrayal to Massachusetts voters who approved the law,” he said.

Miller and his organization saw the mandated 1.5 square feet of floor space per chicken as the “most important anti-cruelty provision,” so trimming that back defied the will of the voters.

Assuming Baker signs the bill — love it, hate it or still on the fence about it — this is an incremental but important step toward improving the lives of some farm animals. That is something we can live with.

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