After a temporary adjustment period, Proposition 12 is fully implemented in California, meaning all pork sold in the state must come from farms that comply with larger animal housing requirements.
As of Jan. 1, 2024, pork growers and distributors are required to have valid certificates of compliance and the covered products must be from compliant producers, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Retailers were allowed to sell noncompliant pork already in the supply chain through the end of 2023.
The implementation marks a win for animal rights advocates. The ballot measure was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018, and the veal and egg provisions have been in place for years. But pushback from the pork industry delayed some of the measure’s implementation until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor last year.
Prop 12 established unprecedented prohibitions on selling food from farm animals raised in tight housing confinements. This applies not only to farms in California but also to farms outside the state too.
For the pork industry in particular, gestation crates are widely used for efficiency and safety reasons. They are metal pens about 7 feet long that house individual breeding sows for the entire gestation period, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ten states, including California, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio, have passed laws prohibiting their use.
“We are thrilled that Proposition 12, the nation’s strongest farm animal protection law, is finally fully implemented," Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S., said in a statement. “No animal deserves to spend her life in a cage where she’s virtually immobilized.”
Pork industry stakeholders have been mixed on Prop 12 and Question 3, a similar state law that partially took effect Aug. 23 in Massachusetts, with some companies adapting to the larger animal housing requirements without a problem. Others have aired concerns about upgrade costs, interstate commerce issues and rising food prices for consumers.
Companies such as Albertsons, Chipotle and Niman Ranch have made adjustments to be Prop 12 compliant, while Tyson Foods, Hormel Foods, Perdue and other processors have made public statements about being compliant in recent years.
The USDA estimated pork prices to increase more than 7% under the ban in California, softening demand and resulting in an annual loss of economic benefits worth $320 million.
“For too long, the industry has been hyper focused on efficiency and producing large amounts of cheap meat, while losing sight of the bigger picture,” Chris Oliviero, general manager of Niman Ranch, said in a statement. “Prop 12 is the right thing for both the animals and farmers, but it needs to be done in a structured manner where pork producers have support and dedicated markets.”