California Declares War on Pork | Citizens Against Government Waste

California Declares War on Pork

The WasteWatcher

Among the many laws that took effect on January 1, 2022, was a California law prohibiting the sale of pork, eggs, or veal that fails to meet strict state standards.  The law, which establishes demanding requirements for the living conditions of livestock, promises to drive up already high pork prices and threatens the availability of pork throughout the state of California.

In 2018, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative.  Under the law, no business owner in California may sell meat from “a covered animal who was confined in a cruel manner, or is the meat of immediate offspring of a covered animal who was confined in a cruel manner.”  The statute requires that each pig must have at least 24 square feet of space to avoid qualification as a covered animal from confinement in a “cruel manner.”  Although the law applies to veal calves and hen-laying chickens as well and many producers in those industries have taken steps to conform, compliance places the greatest burden on pork producers.

Since its adoption, the law has come under attack from various meat producers who warn about the impact the law will have on the state.  Analysis of a similar California law passed in 2008 on changes in animal confinement led to a decrease in the supply and number of eggs produced in California, higher egg imports, and increased egg prices.  As a result of the passage of Proposition 12, CNN Business reported, Californians could find even fewer options in the grocery store and learn that some pork products are “too expensive for lower-income people, further limiting their access to proper nutrition.”  Promoted in the name of animal welfare, this law will negatively impact both the financial and physical health of the people of California, in particular those with lower incomes.

Like many other California laws, this law applies far beyond the state’s borders.  Under the law, business owners may not sell any domestic or imported pork that fails to meet the state’s conditions.  As a result, out of state pork producers, who provide 98 percent of California’s pork, will either be forced to change their business practices to meet the state’s stringent standards, or stop selling their products in the state.  The Golden State alone accounts for 15 percent of the pork sold in the United States each year.  According to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), less than 5 percent of America’s pork producers currently adhere to California’s strict new standards.  To continue selling pork in the state, out of state producers will have to undergo drastic changes to their operations.  Consequently, California’s effort to reform livestock conditions will allow one state to dictate policy for the entire nation.

The implementation of the new law comes as meat prices increased by 16 percent overall (pork by 16.8 percent) through November 2021 and there is no sign of inflation slowing down.  The National Pork Producers Council warned that the California law will require the industry “to spend billions on new facilities.”  These costs, they caution, “will likely trickle down to pork consumers” across the nation. 

As producers work to implement the mandates of Proposition 12, consumers across the nation will soon feel the impact of California’s latest policy mandate.  Unlike many state policies that tend to have a detrimental impact on a single state’s population, Proposition 12 promises to impact consumers across the United States through higher prices for pork and related products.  And like every other price increase, they will be disproportionately impact middle and lower-income families.

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