While eating meat is the norm in the U.S., many people wish farm animals a happier life pre-burger. Which is why Californians overwhelmingly passed animal welfare initiative Proposition 12 in 2018. But now the free-range chickens are coming home to roost. And while they may still be relatively affordable, pig products will not be.
Some media outlets have predicted possible pork shortages in California and sky-high prices for bacon. The problem? The new law dictates that starting January 1, 2022, pigs sold in the Golden State must be raised in roomier, 24-square-foot spaces, up from the previous size of 20-square-feet.
In Iowa, which raises one-third of the nation’s pigs, many farmers aren’t happy with the change. They claim the new space requirements will cost them tens of millions of dollars annually. The general counsel for the National Pork Producers Council has even accused people behind the ballot measure of trying to turn Americans into vegetarians. “The Humane Society of United States’ goal is the elimination of meat on the table,” said attorney Michael Formica, as reported by the Washington Post.
Opponents of the new law hired a consulting firm to terrify pork lovers. Their research determined that bacon prices could increase by 60% if hogs spend their lives slightly less cramped. And what started in California could sweep the nation, cranking bacon prices up across America.
Californians eat 15% of all the country’s pork products. While California restaurants and groceries sell about 255 million pounds of pig every month, California farms produce only about 45 million pounds. So far, only 4% of American hog farms already comply with the new space constraints. So, unless farmers remodel their pigpens in a hurry, California could soon run low on ham and salami, not to mention chitlins, trotters and hog jowls.
In the meantime, Formica might be onto something. Vegan protein sources like beans can provide nutrition without the animal welfare concerns. You can cram the can full, and a garbanzo bean feels no pain, as far as we know. Now there’s a humane solution to dinner.
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