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California's pig rules could see Bacon disappear

Jeannie Kim was able to keep her San Francisco restaurant open during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to a revamped menu and long working hours.

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California's pig rules could see Bacon disappear

It is even more frustrating because she fears that her breakfast-focused restaurant could be destroyed by new rules. California could soon make bacon difficult to find.

Kim, who has been running SAMS American Eatery in the bustling Market Street for 15 years, said that bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns are our number one sellers. It could prove to be devastating for us.

California will enforce a 2018 animal welfare proposal that voters approved in overwhelming numbers. It requires California to provide more space for breeding pigs, egg laying chickens, and veal calves. Although egg and national veal producers are hopeful they will be able to meet the new standards only 4% of hog farms comply with them. California will lose nearly all its pork supply unless the courts intervene, or the state allows non-compliant meat temporarily to be sold in California. This will result in higher prices for pork producers trying to regain access to a critical market.

For years, animal welfare organizations have been advocating for humane treatment of farm animals. However, California's rules may be an exception to the rule.

California consumes approximately 15% of all pork in the United States, so it is difficult to imagine how the pork industry will be able to supply California with enough pork. There are not many resources left to construct new facilities, inseminate seeds, and process offspring before January.

Matt Sutton, public policy director at the California Restaurant Association, stated that "we are very concerned about potential supply impacts" and thus cost increases.

California's grocery stores and restaurants consume approximately 255 million pounds per month of pork, while its farms produce only 45 millions pounds, according Rabobank, a global financial services company that specializes in food and agriculture.

The National Pork Producers Council asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide federal assistance to pay retrofitting hog facilities across the country to fill the gap. The cost of retrofitting hog facilities around the country is prohibitive for hog farmers. California has not yet published regulations on how these new standards will be applied and enforced.

Barry Goodwin, an economist from North Carolina State University, estimates that the additional costs are 15% higher for a farm with 1,000 breeding porkers.

According to the Hatamiya Group, an opposition consulting firm, bacon prices could jump to $6 if half of California's pork supply were suddenly cut. This would result in bacon prices jumping to $9.60 for a $6 package.

One Iowa hog farm keeps sows in 14-square-foot open-air crates. They are used for insemination, and they stay there for one week. They are smaller than the California law requires for breeding pigs to have enough space to turn around and extend their legs. Others keep their sows in the containers almost all the time, so they wouldn't be in compliance.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, although details are still being finalized, the most important rules regarding space have been known for many years.

"It's important to remember that regulations cannot change the law and the law has been there since the Farm Animal Confinement Proposition (12) was passed in 2018 by a large margin," the agency stated in response to questions by the AP.

Although the pork industry has brought lawsuits, so far, courts have not supported California's law. Governor. Gavin Newsom has been asked to delay the new requirements. Also, the council is hopeful that meat from the supply chain will be sold to delay shortages.

Josh Balk, the head of farm animal protection efforts at the Humane Society of the United States said that the pork industry should embrace the overwhelming view of Californians who believe animals should be treated with more compassion.

Balk asked, "Why do pork producers keep trying to overturn laws that relate to cruelty to animals?" It says something about the pork industry that it appears its business model is to lose at election when it tries to defend their practices, and then to try to overturn animal cruelty laws.

Dwight Mogler, a farmer in Iowa who raises approximately one-third of the country's hogs estimates that the changes would run him $3 million. This will allow him to house 250 pigs in an area that currently holds 300.

Mogler stated that he would need to make an additional $20 per pig in order to afford this expense. However, so far processors have offered far less.

Mogler asked, "The question is, if you do these changes what is the next change going be in the rules two, three, or five years ahead?"

California's rules present a challenge to slaughterhouses as they may now send different cuts to different locations across the country and abroad. The new system will allow processors to identify California-compliant pork and to separate premium cuts from the standard pork that is available for the rest of the nation.

Analysts predict that while pork prices in California will rise, other customers across the country won't notice any difference. California's new rules may become a national standard as processors cannot afford to ignore such a large market.

Kim, a San Francisco restaurant owner, stated that she was able to survive the pandemic by reducing her menu and driving hundreds of miles through the Bay Area to deliver food. She also reduced staff.

Kim, a Korean-American, stated that she is especially concerned about small restaurants that can't afford high prices and specialize in Asian or Hispanic food that includes pork.

"You know, I live and work with many Asian and Hispanic residents in the city. Their diet is primarily pork. Kim stated that pork is huge. It's almost as good as butter and bread.

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