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New Rules Could Take Bacon Off the Table in California

Voters approved an animal welfare measure that pork producers aren't ready for
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 1, 2021 9:30 AM CDT
Animal Welfare Vote May Take Bacon Off California's Tables
Breeding-eligible gilts, young breeding females, on a farm in Alvord, Iowa. Farmer Dwight Mogler estimates the changes mandated by California would cost him $3 million and allow room for 250 pigs in a space that now holds 300.   (Janae Metzger/Pig Hill Farms via AP)

Thanks to a reworked menu and long hours, Jeannie Kim managed to keep her San Francisco restaurant alive during the pandemic. That makes it all the more frustrating that she fears her breakfast-focused diner could be ruined within months by new rules that could make one of her top menu items—bacon— hard to get in California. "Our No. 1 seller is bacon, eggs and hash browns," said Kim, who for 15 years has run SAMS American Eatery on Market Street. "It could be devastating for us." At the beginning of next year, California 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 standards, but only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules, the AP reports. Unless courts intervene or the state temporarily allows noncompliant meat to be sold, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain the market.

With little time left to build new facilities, inseminate sows, and process the offspring by January, it's hard to see how the industry will be able to adequately supply California, which consumes roughly 15% of all pork produced in the country. "We are very concerned about the potential supply impacts and therefore cost increases," said Matt Sutton of the California Restaurant Association. Hog farmers said they haven't complied because of the cost and because California hasn't yet issued formal regulations on how the new standards will be administered and enforced. The pork industry has filed lawsuits, but so far courts have supported the law. Josh Balk, of the Humane Society of the United States, said the industry should accept the decision of Californians who want animals treated more humanely. "Why are pork producers constantly trying to overturn laws relating to cruelty to animals?" Balk asked.

(More pork stories.)

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