DAVID GREENE, HOST:
NPR's business news starts with some problems for the Easter bunny.
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GREENE: The European Union has taken a stand on which comes first - chicken or eggs. And as Teri Schultz tells us from Brussels, tighter EU regulations on poultry farms are creating a crucial shortage just before Easter.
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TERI SCHULTZ, BYLINE: Egg-laying hens, like these clucking around in suburban Brussels, got a leg up from the EU this year with a long-planned ban on battery cages, the wire pens that cram chickens tightly together.
European egg producers have had many years - a dozen, to be exact - to transition to cage-free and let the market adjust. But they're still blaming the 1999 regulation for a current severe egg shortage in the commercial sector, and price hikes of up to 250 percent in some regions.
Easter brings the year's highest demand for eggs and while supplies are fairly steady right now in grocery stores, buyers of huge volumes are taking a beating.
SABINE NAFZIGER: It is dire for our companies.
SCHULTZ: Sabine Nafziger heads up CAOBISCO, an association representing chocolate, cookie and confection manufacturers. She says some members have had to cut back production and lay off workers. The egg industry gets little sympathy from animal rights advocates. Eurogroup for Animals' Martyn Griffiths notes that despite the dozen-year transition period, 13 of the 27 member states risk EU lawsuits because they haven't enforced the change.
MARTYN GRIFFITHS: And that's totally unnecessary and unacceptable to the animal welfare movement.
SCHULTZ: EU Agriculture Commission spokesman Roger Waite says the problems are temporary and just part of the price society pays for protecting animals.
ROGER WAITE: We're not going back on these rules. Consumers want it, the politicians have accepted it.
SCHULTZ: For Easter bunnies who worry about either ethics or supplies, animal rights representative Griffiths advises...
GRIFFITHS: Go chocolate.
SCHULTZ: For NPR News, I'm Teri Schultz in Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.