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California To Lose Pork Products As It Tightens Farm Rules

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Close up of pigs snout at domestic farm, group pigs at piglet | California To Lose Pork Products As It Tightens Farm Rules | featured

By next year, Californians might find it harder to buy pork products. Its new animal welfare laws will require more space for breeding egg-laying chickens, lambs, and pigs. Both veal and egg producers said it’s not a problem. However, hog breeding companies are finding it much more difficult to comply with California’s new rules.  

RELATED: Livestock Slaughter Rates Decrease as Meat Industry Prepares to Reopen

Only 4% of Hog Companies Can Comply

At present, only 4% of national hog operations can abide by the new rules on the spacing between animals. This means that California faces a serious shortage of compliant pork producers beginning 2021.

Unless the courts intervene or the state rolls back the timetable for implementation, California will either deal with much higher prices for pork or lose its suppliers completely. 

Calls For More Humane Treatment of Farm Animals

For many years now, animal rights activists have called for more humane treatment of farm animals such as chickens and pigs. However, the California rules that required more spaces for raising pigs can extract a high price for compliance. 

Given the time between now and January, when the new rules take effect, pork producers will find it almost impossible to build new facilities that conform to California’s tighter rules.

Even if they did, there will be little time to raise the first batch of piglets into the right age for processing. This will leave a giant gap for pork producers nationwide. California consumes around 15% of the country’s pork products. 

California Restaurants In Trouble

“We are very concerned about the potential supply impacts and therefore cost increases,” said Matt Sutton, public policy director for the California Restaurant Association. The state’s restaurants and supermarkets sell around 255 million pounds of pork products a month. However, local California farms only account for 45 million pounds.

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Meanwhile, the National Pork Producers Council asked the US Department of Agriculture for federal aid to help pay for retrofitting hog facilities around the nation to fill the gap.

Many pork producers have yet to comply with California’s standards due to the costs involved. In addition, California has yet to issue formal guidelines on the new regulations. Barry Goodwin, an economist at North Carolina State University, estimated that pig farmers will need to invest 15% more per animal to comply.  

Bacon Prices Will Rise 60%

If around 50% of California’s pork products will disappear due to new regulations, bacon prices can jump 60%. A $6 package will cost $9.60, according to a study by the Hatamiya Group. The latter is a consulting firm commissioned by groups opposing the state proposition.

California will require at least 24 square feet of pens for each hog. This gives the animal enough room to turn around and move its limbs. However, many farms keep sows in open crates measuring 14 square feet before moving them to pens measuring 20 square feet.

Other hog producers keep pigs separated in crates, which will also lead to non-compliance with California’s new laws. However, the California Department of Food and Agriculture insisted that producers already know the space rules for years. The agency did admit that details on Proposition 12’s regulations are yet to be finalized. 

“It is important to note that the law itself cannot be changed by regulations and the law has been in place since the Farm Animal Confinement Proposition (Prop 12) passed by a wide margin in 2018,” the agency said in response to questions from the AP.

Pork Industry Filed Lawsuits Against Prop 12

Earlier, the pork industry filed lawsuits against Prop 12. So far, the courts have favored the California law. Consequently, the National Pork Producers Council along with California restaurants and business groups petitioned Governor Gavin Newsom to delay implementation.

The council also hopes that pork products already in the supply chain can continue to be sold. This can potentially delay the foreseen pork shortages in California.

Watch the KCCI News reporting that Iowa pork could be off the menu in western states:

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