The Supreme Court will hear a case involving a California animal cruelty law that could effectively raise the cost of bacon and other pork products across the country.
The case involves CA’s Proposition 12, which passed in 2018 and went into effect this January. Under Prop 12, pork sold in the state must be sourced from pigs whose mothers were raised in at least 24 square feet of space, where they can lie down and rotate themselves. This sought to put an end to “gestation grates” which are metal enclosures frequently used across the pork industry.
SCOTUS weighed the case on Tuesday, ABC7 reports. The outcome of the decision is crucial to the $26-billion-a-year pork industry, but could also limit states’ ability to pass laws with impact outside of their own borders, whether it is legislation targeted at climate change or the regulation of prescription drug prices.
Two prominent groups within the industry, the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation, sued over the proposition. They claim that though Californians consume 13 percent of the pork eaten in the United States, almost 100 percent of that comes from hogs raised outside California’s borders, with pork industry largely concentrated in the Midwest and North Carolina. However, the vast majority of sows are not raised under conditions that would align with Proposition 12’s requirements.
The high court faces the question of whether California has improperly infringed upon the pork market and improperly regulated an industry outside of the state.
Pork producers say that 72 percent of farmers use individual pens for sows that do not meet the standards of allowing them to turn around and that even farmers who house sows in large pens don’t provide the space California would require.
They add that given the way that the pork market operations, with cuts of meat from an array of producers being combined for sale, it is highly likely that all pork would have to meet the state’s standard, no matter where it is being sold. Overall, they argue that complying with Proposition 12 would cost the industry between $290 million and $350 million.
As it stands, lower courts have sided with the Golden State and animal-welfare groups that have supported the proposition. The law is still yet to go into effect for numerous reasons.
The Biden administration is urging the justices to side with the pork producers, as it says Prop 12 would be a “wholesale change in how pork is raised and marketed in this country.” The administration added that it has also “thrown a giant wrench into the workings of the interstate market in pork.”
The law also covers other animals, with egg-laying hens and calves being raised for veal requiring conditions with enough space to lie down, stand up, and turn around freely. These components of the law, however, are not at issue in the case.