STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Could California essentially ban Iowa bacon?

Jeannie Kim holds her popular bacon and eggs breakfast at her restaurant in San Francisco on Friday, July 30, 2021. Thanks to a reworked menu and long hours, Jeannie Kim managed to keep her San Francisco restaurant alive during the coronavirus pandemic. T
Jeannie Kim holds her popular bacon and eggs breakfast at her restaurant in San Francisco on Friday, July 30, 2021. Thanks to a reworked menu and long hours, Jeannie Kim managed to keep her San Francisco restaurant alive during the coronavirus pandemic. T

New rules taking effect in 2022 could nearly eliminate pork products in the state.

Posted: Jul 31, 2021 12:53 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Thanks to a reworked menu and long hours, Jeannie Kim managed to keep her San Francisco restaurant alive during the coronavirus pandemic.

That makes it all the more frustrating that she fears her breakfast-focused diner could be ruined within months by new rules that could make one of her top menu items — bacon — hard to get in California.

“Our number one seller is bacon, eggs and hash browns,” said Kim, who for 15 years has run SAMS American Eatery on the city’s busy Market Street. “It could be devastating for us.”

At the beginning of next year, California will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves. National veal and egg producers are optimistic they can meet the new standards, but only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules. Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain a key market.

Animal welfare organizations for years have been pushing for more humane treatment of farm animals but the California rules could be a rare case of consumers clearly paying a price for their beliefs.

With little time left to build new facilities, inseminate sows and process the offspring by January, it’s hard to see how the pork industry can adequately supply California, which consumes roughly 15% of all pork produced in the country.

“We are very concerned about the potential supply impacts and therefore cost increases,” said Matt Sutton, the public policy director for the California Restaurant Association.

California's restaurants and groceries use about 255 million pounds of pork a month, but its farms produce only 45 million pounds, according to Rabobank, a global food and agriculture financial services company.

The National Pork Producers Council has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for federal aid to help pay for retrofitting hog facilities around the nation to fill the gap. Hog farmers said they haven't complied because of the cost and because California hasn't yet issued formal regulations on how the new standards will be administered and enforced.

Barry Goodwin, an economist at North Carolina State University, estimated the extra costs at 15% more per animal for a farm with 1,000 breeding pigs.

If half the pork supply was suddenly lost in California, bacon prices would jump 60%, meaning a $6 package would rise to about $9.60, according to a study by the Hatamiya Group, a consulting firm hired by opponents of the state proposition.

At one typical hog farm in Iowa, sows are kept in open-air crates measuring 14-square-feet when they join a herd and then for a week as part of the insemination process before moving to larger, roughly 20-square foot group pens with other hogs. Both are less than the 24 square feet required by the California law to give breeding pigs enough room to turn around and to extend their limbs. Other operations keep sows in the crates nearly all of the time so also wouldn't be in compliance.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said that although the detailed regulations aren't finished, the key rules about space have been known for years.

“It is important to note that the law itself cannot be changed by regulations and the law has been in place since the Farm Animal Confinement Proposition (Prop 12) passed by a wide margin in 2018," the agency said in response to questions from the AP.

The pork industry has filed lawsuits but so far courts have supported the California law. The National Pork Producers Council and a coalition of California restaurants and business groups have asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to delay the new requirements. The council also is holding out hope that meat already in the supply chain could be sold, potentially delaying shortages.

Josh Balk, who leads farm animal protection efforts at the Humane Society of the United States, said the pork industry should accept the overwhelming view of Californians who want animals treated more humanely.

“Why are pork producers constantly trying to overturn laws relating to cruelty to animals?” Balk asked. “It says something about the pork industry when it seems its business operandi is to lose at the ballot when they try to defend the practices and then when animal cruelty laws are passed, to try to overturn them.”

In Iowa, which raises about one-third of the nation's hogs, farmer Dwight Mogler estimates the changes would cost him $3 million and allow room for 250 pigs in a space that now holds 300.

To afford the expense, Mogler said, he’d need to earn an extra $20 per pig and so far, processors are offering far less.

“The question to us is, if we do these changes, what is the next change going to be in the rules two years, three years, five years ahead?” Mogler asked.

The California rules also create a challenge for slaughterhouses, which now may send different cuts of a single hog to locations around the nation and to other countries. Processors will need to design new systems to track California-compliant hogs and separate those premium cuts from standard pork that can serve the rest of the country.

At least initially, analysts predict that even as California pork prices soar, customers elsewhere in the country will see little difference. Eventually, California’s new rules could become a national standard because processors can’t afford to ignore the market in such a large state.

Kim, the San Francisco restaurant owner, said she survived the pandemic by paring back her menu, driving hundreds of miles herself through the Bay Area to deliver food and reducing staff.

Kim, who is Korean-American, said she’s especially worried for small restaurants whose customers can't afford big price increases and that specialize in Asian and Hispanic dishes that typically include pork.

“You know, I work and live with a lot of Asian and Hispanic populations in the city and their diet consists of pork. Pork is huge,” Kim said. “It’s almost like bread and butter.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 690391

Reported Deaths: 8104
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1417751856
Ramsey59044950
Dakota52670498
Anoka48579482
Washington30969309
Stearns25163241
St. Louis20636336
Scott19872145
Wright18754163
Olmsted16057111
Sherburne13701104
Carver1224752
Clay926795
Rice9192121
Blue Earth881947
Crow Wing7905102
Kandiyohi749389
Chisago722958
Otter Tail678794
Benton6567101
Mower569138
Winona561352
Goodhue556680
Douglas541684
Itasca526471
Beltrami516972
McLeod512064
Steele510721
Isanti495670
Morrison472463
Nobles452950
Becker443759
Polk438675
Freeborn433838
Lyon398754
Carlton394459
Nicollet384047
Pine378426
Mille Lacs359360
Brown353044
Cass350635
Le Sueur344729
Todd327334
Meeker310249
Waseca294525
Martin267933
Wabasha24654
Dodge24575
Hubbard236141
Roseau234824
Houston206816
Redwood203542
Renville202448
Fillmore200210
Pennington193022
Wadena188926
Faribault182225
Sibley178410
Cottonwood178324
Chippewa172639
Kanabec166729
Aitkin156838
Watonwan156511
Rock140719
Jackson135112
Pope13468
Yellow Medicine126620
Pipestone125326
Koochiching121919
Stevens121511
Swift118819
Murray116010
Marshall105318
Clearwater104818
Lake92821
Wilkin90214
Lac qui Parle86824
Mahnomen7059
Big Stone6964
Grant6958
Norman6699
Lincoln6554
Kittson53522
Unassigned51793
Red Lake4927
Traverse4315
Lake of the Woods4114
Cook2150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 435755

Reported Deaths: 6339
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk67341672
Linn25698353
Scott22828261
Black Hawk19121334
Woodbury16940233
Johnson1659690
Dubuque14547218
Pottawattamie13058183
Dallas12746102
Story1187148
Unassigned93740
Warren685993
Webster6304102
Cerro Gordo6212102
Clinton620097
Des Moines594482
Muscatine5781108
Marshall564280
Sioux542775
Jasper516575
Lee511078
Wapello4993128
Buena Vista472942
Marion449083
Plymouth434083
Henry339940
Jones331158
Bremer325365
Crawford321644
Carroll317053
Washington315754
Benton312656
Boone308736
Mahaska275453
Dickinson270846
Kossuth251471
Jackson246044
Clay245729
Tama238273
Delaware234643
Buchanan233938
Hardin230847
Page221624
Cedar220525
Fayette220345
Wright217641
Winneshiek215937
Hamilton211752
Harrison198875
Clayton194458
Madison193820
Butler188836
Floyd187742
Mills185224
Poweshiek181036
Cherokee179440
Iowa176425
Allamakee176252
Lyon174441
Jefferson169138
Calhoun168313
Hancock167335
Winnebago164231
Grundy158835
Cass155556
Louisa154949
Shelby151739
Appanoose151249
Emmet149541
Franklin148524
Humboldt147226
Sac144722
Union144237
Mitchell141643
Guthrie138132
Chickasaw137518
Palo Alto131124
Clarke125024
Montgomery122239
Keokuk116232
Howard115622
Monroe114033
Ida107538
Davis103125
Pocahontas99023
Greene98012
Adair95334
Monona94733
Lucas94523
Worth9268
Osceola83717
Decatur74510
Fremont74111
Taylor72412
Van Buren70919
Wayne65123
Ringgold62226
Audubon58414
Adams3914
Rochester
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 48°
Mason City
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 40°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 41°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 40°
More sunshine today before clouds and a few showers arrive Friday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events