California Pork Ban? Bacon Shortage Could See Prices Jump 60 Percent

The price of bacon could soar by up to 60 percent in California when an animal welfare proposition kicks in at the start of next year, according to a study.

California's Proposition 12 mandates space requirements for confining certain animals and prohibits the sale of meat and eggs from animals that are kept in places that do not meet this standard.

Proposition 12, which introduces regulations for egg-laying hens, veal meat and pork meat, was overwhelmingly backed by voters and will come into effect from January 1, 2022.

According to The Associated Press, veal and egg producers are optimistic they will be able to meet the new standards, but only 4 percent of pig farmers believe they will be able to comply.

The new law would give breeding pigs room to turn around and extend their limbs, which is a benchmark animal rights groups have campaigned for.

Concerns over whether hog-rearers will be able to meet the new standards have shaken the restaurant industry in the state.

According to global food and agriculture financial services company Rabobank, California's restaurants and groceries use some 255 million pounds of pork a month, but its own farms produce just 45 million pounds, according to AP.

The outlet quoted Matt Sutton, the public policy director for the California Restaurant Association, as saying: "We are very concerned about the potential supply impacts and therefore cost increases."

Should half of California's pork supply end up lost by the start of next year, the price of bacon could rocket up by 60 percent, which means a $6 pack would increase to $9.60, according to a Hatamiya Group study seen by AP.

While the final regulations are not finished, the rules about the space have been known for years.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said in response to questions put to them from AP: "It is important to note that the law itself cannot be changed by regulations and the law has been in place since the Farm Animal Confinement Proposition (Prop 12) passed by a wide margin."

Analysts have predicted even as pork prices in California surge, customers in other parts of the country would see little change, according to AP.

California's new standards could see a shift in how meat is produced in the U.S. given it is one of the largest markets in the country.

In a response sent to Newsweek, National Pork Producers Council President Jen Sorenson said: "Proposition 12, which is set to begin implementation on Jan. 1, 2022, imposes arbitrary animal housing standards that reach far outside of California's borders to farms across the country, and bans the sale of pork that does not meet those arbitrary standards.

"Essentially, a state with very little pork production is seeking to regulate how farmers across the country operate, imposing onerous regulations, inspection and permitting requirements, and highly prescriptive measures on pork producers.

"California, with nearly 40 million residents, represents approximately 15 percent of the U.S. pork market. The state has large Latino and Asian communities that enjoy pork as a staple in their cultural diets. Proposition 12 will dramatically reduce the supply of pork for Californians, driving up prices for consumers and disproportionately affecting low-income households.

"Meantime, according to an analysis by North Carolina State University Economist Dr. Barry Goodwin, hog farmers are going to be forced to incur the costs of extensive renovations or the construction of new facilities—currently estimated at $3,500 or more per sow. Pork producers least able to bear that cost will be small family farms. Loss of this market will put many hog farmers out of business, ultimately leading to further industry consolidation."

Newsweek has contacted the California Department of Food and Agriculture for comment.

Update 8/03/21 9:17 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include comments from National Pork Producers Council President Jen Sorenson.

pigs, pig farm
Hogs at a farm in Iowa. California's new law could see pork production shifting in the years to come. Scott Olson/Getty Images