California Braces for Pork Shortage

On the heels of a pandemic that decimated the restaurant and hospitality industries, California eateries are bracing for another whammy: the disappearance of pork products.

In 2018, California voters approved an animal welfare measure that mandates more space for breeding livestock. It applies to products sold to California consumers.  

“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,” the Associated Press (AP) reports. “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.”

The Ninth Circuit has already struck down a challenge to the confinement rules. 

The law will take effect in January. The pork industry says that’s not enough time to build new facilities. Now the California Restaurant Association is sounding the alarm.

According to the hog farmers, the lack of compliance isn’t only driven by high cost. California hasn't issued formal regulations yet, they point out.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture says that’s bunk.

“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 told the AP.

If California lost half its pork supply, bacon prices would spike as much as 60%, representatives for the farmers say. It would have a disparate impact on restaurants and regions. Chinese cuisine is the most pork-heavy. Thai and Mexican food also use a high percentage of pork products.

Animal welfare groups say the trade-off is worth it and wouldn’t be necessary if pork farmers would just comply.

If you’ve never eaten turkey bacon, now’s a good time to start.


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