Bacon just received some judicial clemency in California. “A California judge decided this week to delay enforcement of part of a new farm animal welfare law that critics said would cause price hikes and supply shortages for bacon and other fresh pork products in the state,” the Associated Press reported.
Why did bacon need a judge to save the savory meat?
Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.
California’s elected lawmakers have banned Fois Gras, sharkfin soup, plastic straws, “junk food” in schools, micro-beads in cosmetics, plastic grocery bags, Trans-fats, and now bacon? California even imposed a ban on fur products.
From the first state in the nation to offer prison inmates an all-vegan menu, California voters passed a ballot measure in 2018 mandating more living space for veal calves, cows and pigs, and banned the confinement of egg-laying hens in cages.
Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative, also set up a ban on the sale of these agricultural products in California that don’t meet the new requirements, attempting to influence how farmers in other states raise their animals.
What a way to endear California to other states…
California is the largest market for pork in the county, so this matters to pork producers.
That law went into effect January 1, 2022, but the state was not ready for the ban. Lucky for bacon connoisseurs the California Department of Food and Agriculture has not finalized the structure for these new requirements. They’ve only had four years to do this.
The California Grocers Association, California Retailers Association, California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and California Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Department of Public Health, the Attorney General and Sacramento District Attorney, and argued that the state’s lack of preparation made them vulnerable to fines or lawsuits.
They say in the lawsuit the state hasn’t even adopted Proposition 12 implementation regulations it was required to adopt over two years ago, leaving petitioners open to liability. “This disconnect between Proposition 12 as approved by voters and the state’s implementation of the law in the marketplace leaves market participants shouldering all of the uncertainty and legal risks,” they said in the lawsuit (below). “The state’s inability to put in place regulations implementing Proposition 12 in a timely manner will lead to substantial disruptions in the state’s pork supply chain in 2022.”
“The process by which whole pork makes its way from barn to table is complex,” petitioners say in the lawsuit, noting that the vast majority of pigs raised on farms are outside of California. “The pork supply chain usually includes seven and often ten or more separate steps from farm to table.” They explain that a breeding pig in Iowa that gives birth to piglets are then sold to another farm where they are raised until they reach market weight. Then the piglets may be sent to slaughter facilities and/or sold to different processors in many different states. As a result, California purchasers and distributors have no idea the conditions under which they have been raised.
Proposition 12 barely addressed this but did require involvement by the State Department of Public Health. The lawsuit says the California Food and Agriculture and State Department of Public Health blew the September 1, 2019 deadline for the regulations, and has nothing more than a rough draft leaving purchasers of pork products vulnerable to liability and lawsuits.
The judge granted petitioners a 6 month stay, and then 180 days after the regulations are issued, according to Courthouse News. “The act offers no guidance about the steps sellers must take before they should know that a particular product is traceable to a breeding pig that at some point in the distribution chain was confined in fewer than 24 square feet,” Arguelles wrote.
Pork products are clearly a complicated process from farm to table, and the state isn’t helping clear up the quagmire. Yahoo News reported in July that bacon may actually disappear in California because pork farmers can’t retool farms very easily to provide more space for hogs.
The rest of the country does not appreciate California’s nanny regulations as they reverberate across the land.
Are Californians really ready to embrace Tofurky’s “Smoky Maple Bacon,” “Smart Bacon,” Hooray Foods’ mushroom-based bacon with a hickory-smoked taste, or my favorite, “Benevolent Bacon?”
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