Updated: Feb 2
Hopefully, you had your last bite of ham for Christmas. While crime continues to surge, homeless encampments overrun our streets, and the state, at times literally, burns to the ground, woke California has concluded that pork is its top priority. Bacon, sausage, ham and other pork products may soon be a thing of the past for Californians, thanks to a new law that took effect on January 1st 2022 after voters approved it decisively in 2018.
New rules that took effect Jan. 1 mandate that pigs (and other animals raised for meat sold in California) be raised in cages large enough for them to turn around in. Provisions of the law guaranteeing better conditions for chickens and veal calves have already been phased in, and now pork sold in the state must also comply.
2018’s Prop 12 passed with 2-1 approval by voters. Press coverage has produced headlines such as “People are panicking about a potential pork crisis,” and industry leaders have warned of a bacon ban leading to the end of bacon, the “Aporkalypse.”
Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will begin enforcing the animal welfare law that mandates increased space for pigs (from average 20 square feet to 24 square feet). Much of pork comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face astronomically higher costs to regain entry to this key market. As only a mere 4% of nationwide hog operations now comply with the new California law, the state may soon lose almost "all" of its pork supply, making it a rare case of consumers clearly paying a price for their beliefs without understanding the consequences.
It’s hard to see how the pork industry can now supply California adequately without enormous cost increases - California consumes roughly 15% of all pork produced in the country - as time is over to build new facilities, inseminate sows and process the offspring.
California farms produce way less than one fifth (45 million pounds) of the 255 million pounds of pork used by California’s restaurants and groceries monthly. Nationwide hog farmers haven’t complied because of the cost (estimated 15% extra cost per animal for a farm with 1,000 breeding pigs, resulting in 60% jump in bacon prices), and because California hasn’t yet issued formal regulations on how the new standards will be administered and enforced. The California Department of Food and Agriculture says that although the detailed regulations aren’t finished, the key rules about space have been known for years.
A lawsuit, filed by National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation with a coalition of California restaurateurs and grocers, aimed to block the law. The suit was denied by state courts, but the plaintiffs are taking it to the Supreme Court, and if their petition is granted, it will add one more dramatic and historic controversy to the high court’s controversy-laden 2022 docket. The arguments against the constitutionality of the law hinge on “extraterritoriality” and the “dormant” section of the commerce clause. The former is the principal that one state can’t mandate behavior in another. The latter holds that Congress, even when asleep, has the sole power to regulate interstate commerce.
The National Pork Producers Council and a coalition of California restaurants, grocers and business groups have asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to delay the new requirements. The council also is holding out hope that meat already in the supply chain could be sold, potentially delaying shortages.
At least initially, 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.
We at Comfort Keto are worried as many of our Asian and Hispanic dishes typically include pork. A lot of Asian and Hispanic populations in the state and their diet consists of pork.
Prop 12 has no provisions protecting the safety of workers processing the animals.