The Supreme Court added pork to its legal menu on Monday, hearing a challenge to a California law regulating the way pigs are farmed. Pork producers asserted that the regulation imposes unreasonably high standards and effectively regulates the industry statewide.
Proposition 12, enacted by voters in 2018, prohibits the sale of pork in California unless the pig was born to a sow confined in at least 24 square feet of space and in conditions that allow the sow to spin around freely without touching her cage.
The pork producers who are contesting the rule claim that practically any commercially bred sows are housed in that amount of space in the United States.
Given that practically all pork consumed in California is imported, they said that Proposition 12 effectively restricts all out-of-state trade and is thus unconstitutional. It would necessitate a more onerous set of hog-raising practices only for meat marketed in California, they argue – an impossibility.
“It necessitates massive and costly changes to existing sow housing nationwide, necessitates either herd reductions or the construction of new facilities to meet its space mandates, increases prices in transactions with no California connection, drives farms out of business, and promotes industry consolidation, and will be policed by intrusive inspections of out-of-state farms conducted by California’s agents,” the challengers wrote in their appeal.
Farmers in Iowa and Minnesota, the country’s major pork producers, warned the law’s impacts would be “catastrophic” and would jeopardize the nation’s supply of safe and clean pork.
In supporting the bill, the Humane Society stated that it was designed to put a stop to “cruel and filthy circumstances that endanger the health of California consumers.”
According to state attorneys, Proposition 12 governs solely in-state sales of items imported from other states and is “completely unconcerned with how products marketed in other states are priced or manufactured.”
Additionally, the state noted that numerous pig companies, including Tyson Foods and Hormel, have publicly stated that they have taken efforts to guarantee their products comply with the California criteria.