Livestock farming is a complex and often misunderstood problem outside the agricultural community. Large common pens are often considered the most humane of casual observers, but they do not tell the whole story.
This is the case with Proposal 12 of California, which requires pork producers to provide 24 square feet of living space for pigs without touching the side of a stall or other animal. This represents a significant change in the way pig production is currently handled in the United States.
The legislation has created problematic perimeters for housing both inside and outside California, mainly for pork producers, who now have to decide whether to upgrade their existing pens or build new ones. This is a particular challenge, given that California is responsible for less than one percent of all pork production in the United States.
Contrary to Prop 12’s space requirements, pigs require little space to live and grow – approximately 8 square feet. If extra space is given, rooting behavior can become destructive to soils and pastures. Public breeding creates its own challenges, as aggressive pigs can attack their neighbors in the pen, creating safety risks. Public writing also facilitates the spread of the disease, which poses health risks.
Risks to the health and safety of the livestock themselves are the most significant challenge for herd management created by Prop 12. It puts animals, wherever they are raised, at risk of continued injury and need for antibiotic treatment.
The challenges built into Prop 12 do not stop with the animals themselves. They also flock to the grocery store. Think beyond bacon and remember that pork has been traded as “another white meat” for a generation because it is a lean, protein-rich meat that is reasonably priced.
Prop 12 raises the price of pork in various ways. While Prop 12 will cost consumers, it will cost pork producers first, because they will have to modernize their farms on the farm to continue raising pigs. The most worrying thing is the small farms that can’t afford the conversions they will sell to companies like Tyson, Smithfield, JBS and Cargill.
Farms that can make the financial leap with fence conversions without selling to large companies are likely to reduce their herd size to do so in an attempt to balance herd size with breeding opportunities, raising the price because there will be fewer animals to meet the same demand. Finally, the requirements of Prop 12, which apply internationally, can reduce the amount of imported pork, which equates to a similar supply and demand problem as the smaller total herd size in the United States, but on a larger scale. .
No matter what path pork producers take, there are costs associated with surviving the new rules. If producers decide to reduce the size of their herd and then upgrade their pens, it will cost approximately $ 17.50 per animal just to reduce the size of their herd. Remodeling an existing barn and adding the extra space required by Prop 12 for a farm with 2,500 sows will cost approximately $ 600 per pig, or $ 2.1 million. Building completely new barns that are compatible with Prop 12 would cost approximately $ 3,800 per pig ($ 9.5 million in the example of 2,500 sows). These estimates are based on construction costs in February and are probably now significantly higher.
Earlier this year, the Sacramento County Supreme Court delayed the implementation of Prop 12. The American Agricultural Bureau (AFBF) and the National Pork Board (NPPC) appealed Prop 12 to the Supreme Court, where it is scheduled to hear 12 October. It should be noted that the Biden administration contributed a friend’s statement in support of the AFBF and NPPC in the case, writing: “California has no legitimate interest in protecting the welfare of animals outside the state … petitioners confidently claim that Proposal 12 will have significant adverse effects on the interstate pork market. “
Prop 12 is marketed as a tool to improve animal welfare and food safety. Instead, the proposal ignores the science of how to raise happy, healthy pigs and puts at risk those who are most insecure about food across the country, making food more expensive and inaccessible.