Last week, the National Pork Producers Council was at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Their problem was a California law.
Animal Welfare: How to Make a Hog Happy
Passed in 2018, Californis’s Proposition 12 determines the minimum requirements for breeding hogs. Because the law is applicable to all uncooked pork sold in the state, it does not matter where the pig was born and raised. Starting this year, if the meat is sold in California, it has to abide by Caifornia’s rules.
The rules say a pork product that came from a sow (female hog) raised in cruel conditions is prohibited. Those conditions include a minimum of 24 feet of living space–very different from the current gestation create standard of 7 feet by 2 feet. You can imagine the choice the law creates for out-of-state farmers. They have to comply or forget about California’s huge market. But, complying is expensive and probably transforms all that they produce for sale everywhere.
With the new animal welfare requirement, hog farmers would have to design a new environment for their sows. A roomier home means an expensive investment and a cascade of other rising costs. Classic demand and supply, higher production costs shift the supply curve to the left and increase price.
Concerned about animal welfare and also, I suspect, the impact of the price rise on local producers from cheaper out-of-state pork products, California will implement Proposition 12. And this is where it gets tricky.
Our Bottom Line: Interstate Commerce
With the intent of preserving free trade among the states, the Commerce Clause in the US Constitution says Congress shall have the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes .” Out-of-state pork exporters are complaining that the new law does indeed constrain trade among the states. During oral argument, the justices also expressed concern with a proliferation of interstate squabbles and a ripple of state mandates for everything ranging from pesticides to abortion pills. There was lots to consider.
My sources and my: Up-to-date, this PBS article from The Conversation does a good job of briefly summarizing the issues. However, for a superb lengthy discussion, the one article I suggest is the ScotusBlog. And finally, if you still want more, several years ago, econlife looked at a similar situation for California’s chickens and also at gestation crates.
As a NY/NJ person, I was fascinated with the pig facts I got from the USDA. This graphic summarizes the life of a pig.