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New Pig Law In California May Lead to Bacon Shortage

The Other White Meat might just be off the menu permanently in California.

At the beginning of next year, the Golden State will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens, and veal calves. National veal and egg producers are optimistic they can meet the new standards, but only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules. Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain a key market.

California’s restaurants and groceries use about 255 million pounds of pork a month, but its farms produce only 45 million pounds, according to Rabobank, a global food and agriculture financial services company.

Animal welfare organizations for years have been pushing for more humane treatment of farm animals but the California rules could be a rare case of consumers clearly paying a price for their beliefs. With little time left to build new facilities, inseminate sows and process the offspring by January, it’s hard to see how the pork industry can adequately supply California, which consumes roughly 15% of all pork produced in the country.

If half the pork supply was suddenly lost in California, bacon prices would jump 60%, meaning a $6 package would rise to about $9.60, according to a study by the Hatamiya Group, a consulting firm hired by opponents of the state proposition. Analysts predict that even as California pork prices soar, customers elsewhere in the country will see little difference. Eventually, California’s new rules could become a national standard because processors can’t afford to ignore the market in such a large state.

The California rules also now create a challenge for slaughterhouses, which now may send different cuts of a single hog to locations around the nation and to other countries. Processors will need to design new systems to track California-compliant hogs and separate those premium cuts from standard pork that can serve the rest of the country. Climate action advocates have been calling for a reduction in livestock slaughter, as the runoff from slaughterhouses gets into local water supplies, often running into rivers and oceans.

 

 



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