Some claim pork prices could fatten up by 60% when a new California law takes effect January 1, but this may be industry trade groups just hoping to bring home more bacon.

You may have been hearing hysteria for much of 2021 over a so-called looming bacon shortage. And indeed, bacon prices have gone up this year, though it's unclear whether that’s because of general inflation, supply chain issues, or just agricultural conglomerates crying like Chicken Little to justify price increases. But the California discussion of an alleged pork shortage comes thanks to a new animal cruelty prevention regulation set to take effect January 1, 2022, which some claim will increase the price of bacon “by 60%.”  

"We’re saying this is not going to work," California Grocers Association spokesperson Nate Rose complains to the Associated Press, in a report picked up by KTVU. But that same report quotes a Humane Society organizer who dismisses this as"pork industry claims of the apocalypse."

This all springs from a 2018 California measure called Prop. 12, wherein 63% of voters approved a “ban the sale of (a) veal from calves, (b) pork from breeding pigs, and (c) eggs from hens when the animals are confined to areas below minimum square-feet requirements.” The livestock industry can transition pretty easily when it comes to chicken and eggs. But when it comes to bacon and pork, which require large adult pigs, they claim this will make it impossible to sell their pig products in California.

The argument so far has been that it will cost pig farmers with over 1,000 animals about 15% more per animal to comply with the requirements — which simply call for giving the pigs enough room to turn around in their pens. But if California consumes 13% of the nation's pork, and the farms stand to lose that market, maybe they'll ultimately have to comply, and pass costs on to consumers.

Most California meat is raised outside the state, in the Midwest. The National Pork Producers Council sued over implementing the law, and were unsuccessful. But the AP reports on what is likely to be a more successful challenge; a lawsuit from the California Grocers Association and a number of other trade groups, asking for a “28-month delay until final regulations for enforcement of the rules are officially adopted.”

After all, the state just finished public comment on the new rules, a bureaucratic milestone, but one that means the regulations that are supposed to take effect January 1 are probably nowhere near ready yet.

So it’s likely we will see a delay in the implementation. But it’s also likely we’ll see pork prices increase on January 1 anyway, because trade groups are excellent at manipulating hysteria.

But these are the same trade groups that were curiously quiet when COVID-19 outbreaks hit meat-packing facilities. And frankly, maybe bacon should be an expensive delicacy to be enjoyed on rare occasions. The meat industry is destroying the planet, there are excellent plant-based alternatives to pork, and perhaps higher bacon prices are the right cure.

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