Michigan is laying the groundwork to making sure the state’s chickens have a slightly better life.

Lt. Gov. Garland Gilchrist signed a measure into law in late November that requires that all egg-laying hens in Michigan be kept in cage-free systems and prohibiting the sale of non-cage free eggs by December 2024. That makes Michigan the largest egg-producing state in the country to adopt cage-free legislation. Other states already on board are California, Washington, Oregon and Rhode Island.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan has eight family-owned and operated egg farms that care for more than 15 million hens, based on information furnished by the Michigan Allied Poultry Industries. West Michigan reportedly is home to 95% of Michigan’s egg farms.

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist noted Michigan is known for having one of the most diverse agricultural and farming industries in the nation. “This will ensure that our standards are among the strongest in the nation when it comes to protecting animal welfare while ensuring that egg producers are able to continue to thrive,” Gilchrist was quoted by the Free Press.

So what does the new law actually mean? It means chickens not kept in cages, although the chickens generally still are confined in a barn. That’s not the same thing as free-range chickens, where the birds can roam around outdoors.

Remember the days when all consumers had to worry about when it came to buying eggs was deciding between small, medium, large and extra-large and jumbo-sized eggs. Today there’s a dizzying array of messages on egg cartons from cage-free to free-range to organic, which consumers need a code to crack. And cage-free eggs generally cost more than conventional eggs.

The Free Press pointed out the commitment to using cage-free eggs is a growing trend. In April 2019, McDonald’s USA announced they’ve made progress toward sourcing 100% cage-free eggs by 2025. They are now 33% cage-free. And by the end of 2019 they will source more than 726 million cage-free eggs for U.S. restaurants. Kroger stores expect to source 100% cage-free by 2025.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development welcomed the news.

Whoever thought that egg-laying hens would have so much clout in the egg industry. Americans love their eggs and egg farmers are doing their best to accommodate them.