Bacon May Be Off the Menu in California Due to New Regulations

by Emily Morgan

If you live in California and you’re a bacon fan, we’ve got some bad news that might have you squealing. In 2022, the state will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters back in 2018. The proposal requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens, and veal calves.

National veal and egg producers are hopeful they can meet the new standards. However, only 4 percent of hog operations can comply with the new standards.

As a result, unless the courts intervene or the state allows non-compliant meat to be sold temporarily, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which hails from Iowa. In addition, pork producers will face higher costs to regain the market.

Additionally, it might also negatively affect small business owners like Jeannie Kim. After struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim luckily stayed open. She implemented a new menu and worked long hours. Now, it looks like her San Francisco diner is in jeopardy once again.

For Kim, she worries her diner could go under within months. The new rules could make one of her top breakfast items — bacon — hard to acquire.

“Our number one seller is bacon, eggs and hash browns,” said Kim, who has run SAMS American Eatery for over 15 years. “It could be devastating for us.”

Meanwhile, animal welfare organizations have been arguing for more humane treatment of farm animals. However, with little time left to build new facilities, it isn’t easy to see how the pork industry can adequately supply the state. Consumers in California eat roughly 15 percent of all pork produced in the US.

The Problem of Pork in California

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

California’s restaurants and groceries use about 255 million pounds of pork per month. However, according to Rabobank, a global food and agriculture financial services company, its farms produce only 45 million pounds.

When they join the herd at a standard hog farm in Iowa, sows are confined in open-air crates measuring 14-square-feet. After a week of the insemination process, they transition to larger, 20-square foot group pens with other hogs.

Both pins are less than the 24 square feet required by the state’s new law to give pigs enough room to move around.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced that while the detailed regulations aren’t completed, the standards about space are nothing new.

“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 said.