California voters overwhelmingly passed a law a few years back that require “humane” treatment of farm animals, including pigs. The law goes into effect in a few months, and it will mean that pork products – including bacon – will be virtually unavailable in Calif. (Only 4% of all hog farms currently comply with the new rules.)
Farmers will have to spend millions to upgrade.
Either Calif (which consumes 15% of the national market currently) will not get pork products, or the rest of the nation will have to pay more for pork to make Californians happy.
"Hog farmers said they haven’t complied because of the cost and because California hasn’t yet issued formal regulations on how the new standards will be administered and enforced. "
"The National Pork Producers Council has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for federal aid to help pay for retrofitting hog facilities around the nation to fill the gap. "
I do NOT agree with turning to fedgov for assistance here. If there is a cost to be reimbursed by a government, it should be paid for by the state of Calif. Maybe farmers were hoping Calif would come to its senses and drop the regulation. (Corporate America often defers action on stuff like this.)
My prediction: There will be an initial glut of pork products in the rest of the country when this goes into effect. And we’ll see all sorts of sad stories from Calif when they can’t get their bacon, or when the price of “legal” bacon doubles.
You’d think Califs would have learned by now. Over-regulation makes things cost more in Calif. Witness the price of gasoline. Now it will be their bacon. (I wonder if it will also impact pre-packaged products like frozen dinners and even cans of pork and beans.)
But I also see niche farmers re-tooling specifically to supply the Califs. Free market will step in. Their product will necessarily be more expensive, but at least it will comply. And I suspect Califs will cough up the cash for it – especially after a months-long pork-fasting.
But to your original point, the article also says this:
“The California Department of Food and Agriculture said that although the detailed regulations aren’t finished, the key rules about space have been known for years.”
On the flip side we see this from the hog farmers:
“In Iowa, which raises about one-third of the nation’s hogs, farmer Dwight Mogler estimates the changes would cost him $3 million and allow room for 250 pigs in a space that now holds 300. … To afford the expense, Mogler said, he’d need to earn an extra $20 per pig and so far, processors are offering far less.”
Business runs by market forces, and not by the feelings of Californians. Maybe in time the market will adapt, but right now it’s not bending to the whims of Californians.
In the end, either the rest of the country will have to pay more to assuage Californians, or a special niche will develop to cater to Californian delicacies.
Well personally… I think that we as a nation need to confront the treatment of animals with our current system of factory farming. I do say this knowing that it does come with an increased cost and that cost being borne by the farmers and the people who can afford it the least is not sustainable or fair.
I myself have tried to eat more in line with more humane treatment. But I also know that I have the means to do so and I am willing to pick up the extra cost.
This whole situation doesn’t seem to have good answers because on the one hand, the humane treatment of animals is important but on the other rising food costs hurt those who can’t afford it the most.
I will admit that I don’t have the answers but I can see validity in both sides of issue.