Bacon May Be Done in California Due to New Animal Welfare Law

California will start enforcing a proposition voters approved in 2018 at the beginning of next year

Bacon frying
Bacon frying on an electric griddle.
MyLoupe/UIG Via Getty

Thanks to an animal welfare proposition that voters approved overwhelmingly in 2018, bacon and other pork products may be cooked in California at the beginning of next year.

California’s new rule, which also applies to national veal and egg producers, requires more space for breeding pigs, chickens and calves, although the state hasn’t issued formal regulations on how the new standards will be enforced yet.

Producers who supply the state with eggs and veal say they should be able to comply with the new law at a large enough scale to meet California’s demand for their products, but pork producers, many of whom are located in Iowa, are worried about being able to meet the standards to continue to legally supply the Golden State with bacon, sausage, ham and other pork products. Californians currently consume roughly 15% of all pork produced in the country.

“We are very concerned about the potential supply impacts and therefore cost increases,” Matt Sutton, the public policy director for the California Restaurant Association, said.

It is possible that the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold, but only 4% of pork producers comply with the new rules as of now, per The Associated Press. Per one estimate, pork producers will have to pony up about 15% more per animal for a farm with 1,000 breeding pigs in order to meet the new standard.

Lawsuits attempting to overturn the new requirements have been filed by a coalition of California restaurants, business groups and members of the pork industry, but courts have supported the law thus far.

“Why are pork producers constantly trying to overturn laws relating to cruelty to animals?” Josh Balk, the head of farm animal protection efforts at the Humane Society of the United States, said. “It says something about the pork industry when it seems its business operandi is to lose at the ballot when they try to defend the practices and then when animal cruelty laws are passed, to try to overturn them.”

The new animal welfare rules, which also create a challenge for slaughterhouses, could become a national standard at some point, but the expected jump in pork prices should be confined to California, for now.

“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 California Department of Food and Agriculture said in response to questions from The AP.


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