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California Proposition Passed 3 Years Ago Could Create Pork Shortage

PLEASANT HILL (KPIX) -- Meat producers are warning that pork products may begin disappearing from California store shelves come January 1st, all because of something people voted for three years ago.

In 2018 voters approved Proposition 12, a humane farming initiative which set mandates for living space for farm animals if they're going to be sold for food in California. It started with egg-laying chickens, but the pork producers pushed back in the courts.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Prop 12. That means breeding pigs will have a little more room to move around.

"There's very little pork production in the State of California. It is predominantly done in the Midwest," said Jim Monroe, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council headquartered in Iowa.

The vast majority of pork in California stores comes from other states and Monroe says only about four percent of farmers are compliant with the new rules. But because the law bans non-compliant pork no matter where it is produced, on January 1st most of the nation's raw pork products would be illegal to sell in California.

"My wife told me there's a bacon shortage. So she said, when you go to the store, make sure you buy bacon," said shopper Tony Amrhein at the Pleasant Hill Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. "We're not big bacon eaters, but we're going to get some anyway, just to have it."

Jenny Flanagan said she remembers the chicken law but had no idea it would have this effect on her son's favorite bacon.

"It's kind of sad. It would be nice to know what we were voting for," she said. "I don't think anybody knows about this."

She might be right about that. KPIX-5 called dozens of restaurants, stores and meat markets Monday and very few were aware of what may be coming. That included Concord caterer Rogie Purificacion, who said pork is a staple in Hispanic and Asian cooking.

"In the Asian market, they use almost 80 percent pork," he said, shaking his head. "I don't know, that's pretty crazy."

California is an economically important market to pork producers so they will be racing to expand their facilities or lessen their herds to try to comply with the space mandates.

Either way, that will create an expense that many simply can't sustain. Some California voters may have thought they were striking a blow against big corporate farming operations, but those may be the ones most likely to survive.

"You have significant costs to come into compliance with what Prop 12 requires," said Monroe. "And some of them just won't be able to do it and they'll be forced out of business."

The only legal step left for the pork producers is the U.S. Supreme Court, but they say they are trying to work with Governor Newsom to postpone enforcement until changes can be made at the farm level.

If not, the price of what pork is available is expected to skyrocket.

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