The state of California is putting its proverbial foot down when it comes to allowing the sale of pork within the state’s borders that doesn’t meet new production standards—regardless of where the hogs are raised.
Now, the US Supreme Court has agreed to take on the ongoing debate over the constitutionality of the state’s new standard, it announced on Monday.
Known as Proposition 12, the law tackles the issue of what the law calls “cruel confinement” of pigs raised for pork production. The law requires hog farmers to provide at least 24 square feet or a 6-foot-by-4-foot area for each of their sows—a far cry from the 7-foot-by-2-foot “gestation crates” in which pigs are often bred—according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. Prop 12 makes it illegal to sell pork within the state of California that was not raised following these standards.
The California law, voted on by ballot in 2018, applies to all pork sold within state lines, regardless of where it was raised. It first started to take effect in 2020 and was supposed to take full effect this year, but enforcement has continually been delayed.
In response, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) filed a lawsuit, hoping to nullify California’s new pork rule. In an official statement, the AFBF said it is “pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to consider the constitutionality of California’s law imposing arbitrary requirements on farmers well outside its borders. We share California’s goal of ensuring animals are well cared for, but Prop 12 fails to advance that goal…One state’s misguided law should not dictate farming practices for an entire nation.”
The groups challenging the law argue that barely any pigs raised for pork are allowed that much space, and to require out-of-California pork producers to practice special procedures just for pork with a final destination of California would be unconstitutional, infeasible and expensive.
According to NBC News, an estimate from North Carolina State University found that adhering to California’s new standard would cost 15 percent more per animal on farms with 1,000 breeding pigs.
With California reigning as the nation’s largest market for pork, critics of the law say it could leave pork in the state in short supply if producers can’t meet the standards.
On the other hand, supporters of the law, such as the Humane Society, praise the law for its intent to end “cruel and unsanitary conditions that threaten the health of California consumers.” And lawyers for Proposition 12 hold that the law only regulates in-state sales, so pork producers can breed their pork in whatever way they prefer and sell it elsewhere.
The state also noted that some large producers, including Tyson Foods and Hormel, have already vowed publicly to honor California’s new standard.