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California's 'Great Bacon Crisis of 2022' is probably a little overblown

No, pork is not going to disappear in California in 2022. But the cost is likely to rise because of a 2018 proposition on animal cruelty and confinement standards.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — No more bacon or pork products in California? The prospect caused quite a kerfuffle on social media over the weekend when the Associated Press reported that a proposition set to go into effect in 2022 could have a huge impact on the pork industry in the state.

Proposition 12 – the Farm Animal Confinement Proposition – was passed by Californians with overwhelming support in 2018. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2022, Prop 12 increases the minimum confinement area allowed for “breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves.” It also bans the sale of products from those farms that fail to meet those new confinement standards.

Specifically for pigs, that area is increased to 24 square feet, up from 20 square feet set in 2020. While veal and egg producers say they can meet those requirements, only about 4% of pork producers say they can comply with the rules, according to AP reporting.

That is what is concerning to pork lovers in California.

Credit: AP
In this undated photo provided by Dwight Mogler shows some breeding eligible gilts (young breeding females), on his farm in Alvord, Iowa. At the beginning of next year, California will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves. In Iowa, which raises about one-third of the nation's hogs, farmer Dwight Mogler estimates the changes would cost him $3 million and allow room for 250 pigs in a space that now holds 300. (Janae Metzger/Pig Hill Farms via AP)

But don't start hoarding bacon just yet. Fears of cutting off the entire pork supply to the state are a little overblown. For starters, it would be devastating to the pork industry. That's because Californians consume about 15% of all the pork produced nationwide.

Another reason not to worry about pork totally disappearing in the state is the fact that California farms already produce a lot of it. According to industry insider FoodProcessing.com, California produces 45 million pounds of pork per month.

However, the state consumes about 225 million pounds monthly. So, if more industrial farms outside of the state don’t comply and fast, it’s highly likely that the cost of pork products in California will increase.

In an example cited by the AP from a study by the Hatamiya Group, if half of the pork supply was lost in California, costs could increase as much as 60% – making a $6 package of bacon in 2021 cost approximately $9.60 in 2022.

It should be noted that California is not some rogue state, going it alone for animal rights. Since 2018, 12 other states have passed laws restricting forms of farm animal confinement. Ten of those states specifically passed laws concerning the confinement of pig gestation crates, according to the ASPCA.

With just five months left in 2021, there’s not much time left for the pork industry at large to comply with the regulations en masse. Industry analysts who spoke to the AP predict prices of pork products to rise in California but to stay virtually unchanged for the rest of the country.

Eventually though, those same analysts predict the California standard could become the norm, simply by the fact that the industry can’t afford to ignore the market demand from the state.

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