With pig raising regulations coming into effect, California pork may disappear

Des Moines, Iowa (AP) – Thanks to a redesigned menu and long hours of work, Jennie King managed to keep her San Francisco restaurant alive during the coronavirus pandemic.

What makes her even more frustrating is that she is worried that her breakfast restaurant may be ruined by the new regulations within a few months, which may make one of her top menus-bacon-hard to buy in California .

“Our number one seller is bacon, eggs and hash browns,” said Kim, who has been running SAMS American Eatery on the city’s busy market street for 15 years. “This can be devastating for us.”

Early next year, California will begin implementing an animal welfare proposal that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018. The proposal requires more space for pigs, laying hens, and veal. National veal and egg producers are optimistic that they can meet the new standards, but now only 4% of pig farms meet the new regulations. Unless the court intervenes or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, most of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain the key. market.

For years, animal welfare organizations have been pushing for more humane treatment of farm animals, but California regulations may be a rare example, and consumers have clearly paid a price for their beliefs.

Since there is not much time to build new facilities, inseminate sows and process offspring before January, it is difficult to see how the pork industry can adequately supply California, which consumes about 15% of all pork produced in the country.

“We are very worried about the potential supply impact, which will lead to increased costs,” said Matt Sutton, director of public policy at the California Restaurant Association.

According to data from Rabobank, a global food and agricultural financial services company, California restaurants and grocery stores use approximately 255 million pounds of pork per month, but its farms produce only 45 million pounds of pork.

The National Pork Producers Council has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide federal assistance to help pay for the renovation of pig farming facilities across the country to fill the gap. Pig farmers said that due to high costs and California has not yet issued formal regulations on how to manage and enforce the new standards, they have not complied with.

Barry Goodwin, an economist at North Carolina State University, estimates that for a farm with 1,000 breeding pigs, the additional cost per animal is 15% higher.

According to a study by the Hatamiya Group, a consulting firm hired by opponents of the state’s proposal, if California suddenly loses half of its pork supply, the price of bacon will rise by 60%, which means that the $6 package will rise to about $9.60.

On a typical pig farm in Iowa, sows are kept in 14-square-foot open-air crates when they are added to the herd, and then transferred to a larger size of approximately 20 square feet as part of the insemination process. Before the fence, lock them with other pigs for a week. Both are smaller than the 24 square feet required by California law to provide enough space for the breeding pigs to turn around and stretch their limbs. Other operations put sows in crates almost all the time, so they will not be compliant.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said that although the detailed regulations have not yet been completed, the key rules related to space have been known for many years.

“It is important to note that the law itself cannot be changed by regulations, and the law has always existed since the Farm Animal Confinement Proposal (Proposal No. 12) was widely passed in 2018,” the agency said in response to a question. Associated Press.

The pork industry has filed a lawsuit, but so far the court has upheld California law. The National Pork Producers Council and the California Federation of Restaurants and Business Groups have asked Governor Gavin Newsom to postpone the new requirements. The committee also hopes that meat already in the supply chain can be sold, which may delay shortages.

Josh Balk, head of farm animal protection for the American Humanitarian Association, said the pork industry should accept the overwhelming views of Californians, who want animals to be treated more humanely.

“Why do pork producers keep trying to overturn laws on cruelty to animals?” Barker asked. “It illustrates something in the pork industry. When they tried to defend this practice, its business operations seemed to have failed in the vote, and then when the animal cruelty laws were passed, they tried to overthrow them.”

About one-third of the country’s live pigs are raised in Iowa. Farmer Dwight Mogler estimates that these changes will cost him $3 million and make room for 300 pigs. 250 pigs.

Mogler said that in order to cover the cost, he needs to make an extra $20 per pig, and so far, processors have offered far less prices.

“The question for us is, if we make these changes, what will happen to the rules in the next two, three, and five years?” Mogler asked.

California regulations also pose challenges for slaughterhouses, which may now ship different parts of a pig to all parts of the country and other countries. Processors need to design new systems to track live pigs that meet California standards and separate these high-quality pork from standard pork that can be supplied to other parts of the country.

At least initially, analysts predicted that even if California pork prices soar, customers elsewhere in the country will not see any difference. In the end, California’s new rules may become a national standard because processors cannot ignore such a large state market.

San Francisco restaurant owner King said she survived the pandemic by reducing the menu, driving hundreds of miles across the Bay Area to deliver food and laying off staff.

Kim, who is Korean-American, said she is particularly worried that customers in small restaurants cannot afford the steep price increases and specialize in Asian and Spanish dishes, usually including pork.

“You know, I live and work in this city with many Asians and Hispanics. Their diet includes pork. Pork is huge,” Jin said. “It’s almost like bread and butter.”

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