Goodbye bacon? California’s pork supply at risk with new pig rules

4 mins read

An updated menu and long hours helped restaurant owner Jeannie Kim to keep her business up and running in San Francisco amid the health crisis.

But she is worried that the new rules can impact her diner, which mainly serves food for breakfast, as bacon — among her leading menu items — could be difficult to secure in California.

“Our number one seller is bacon, eggs and hash browns,” Kim, owner of SAMS American Eatery at Market Street, said.  “It could be devastating for us.”

An animal welfare proposition passed by voters in 2018 will be enforced starting next year, which will require additional space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves.

The new standards are anticipated to be hit by the national veal and egg producers. However, only 4 percent of hog operations are complying with the new rules.

California is on the brink of losing most of its pork supply, especially from Iowa, unless the courts step in or the state will permit the selling of non-compliant meat. Pork producers, too, will face increased costs to recover an important market.

For years, animal welfare organizations have been advocating for farm animals to be treated more humanely but California rules could end up having consumers paying a penny for their principles.

It is difficult to envision how the pork industry can satisfy the demands of California with the little time remaining to establish new facilities, alter sows and process the offspring by January.

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

In a month, nearly 255 million pounds of pork are used in restaurants and groceries in California. Its farms, however, generate only 45 million pounds, the international good and agriculture financial services company Rabobank said.

To fill the gap, the National Pork Producers Council asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help to furnish hog facilities in the country. The cost hinders hog farmers to comply with the new rules. The process of administering and enforcing the rules also remains unclear to them as the state has not released formal regulations yet.

A North Carolina State University economist Barry Goodwin said that there is approximately a 15 percent additional cost per animal for a 1, 000-breeding pig farm.

Bacon prices would increase by 60 percent if California suddenly loses its pork supply. This would mean that a package would cost about $9.60 from the $6, a consulting firm Hatamiya Group said.

While the detailed regulations are not yet finalized, the California Department of Food and Agriculture said that the important rules regarding space have been recognized for years, as reported by SFGate.

“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 AP.