Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Sid Salter: California, Massachusetts Could Raise Food Prices Far Beyond Their Borders

 Voters in California and Massachusetts have directly passed laws regulating the conditions in which pigs, hens, and calves are housed in industrial agriculture production facilities that may prove to be the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come for farmers, producers and consumers in the rest of the country.

At a time when inflation in food prices is already a factor in the wake of the COVID pandemic, these laws could further raise retail prices for pork, eggs and veal for consumers and dictate significant expenses for producers to make their industrial farms compliant – costs that will be passed on to the consumer.

According to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi ranks 23rd in the nation in pork production at more than 1.02 million swine annually. But the heavyweight commercial pork-producing states are Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Missouri. In terms of eggs, Mississippi produced 1.41 million eggs in 2020 at a value of $260 million.

California and Massachusetts voters expressed concern about animal welfare and production conditions in large pork, beef and egg-producing operations. Fueled by activism on these issues from the U.S. Humane Society and other groups, the voter propositions targeted gestation cages for sow hogs and battery cages for laying hens in egg production.

The cages limit movement by the animals – keeping hogs from being able to turn around and restricting hens from being able to spread their wings. Backers say the laws make food production more humane. At the same time, opponents point to the impact on product costs and that California and Massachusetts laws seek to regulate production techniques across state lines in violation of interstate commerce laws.

Putting the conflict in perspective are numbers crunched by North Carolina State University agricultural economist Barry Goodwin, who found that Californians consume about 15 percent of U.S. pork production, but in turn produce only 0.12 percent. Neither is Massachusetts a pork producer of any real significance.

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau have filed legal challenges to the California law to the Supreme Court but as yet have not been able to block it. As the implementation and enforcement deadlines approach, both states are encountering bureaucratic snags in their own state governments.

Massachusetts lawmakers threw up their hands and adjourned with the matter unsettled there last week. California officials are scrambling as well with fresh legal challenges before them. Producers are struggling with basic questions – do they separate their product as California/Massachusetts compliant and non-compliant? What about labeling? How much of their production space should be retrofitted for compliance?

What will the actual impact on consumer pork prices be? Eight percent? 30 percent or more? What about product shortages in California and Massachusetts? Are those prospects real, or are they industry scare tactics?

What's the genesis of the new California and Massachusetts laws? Back in 2013, Rolling Stone Magazine published the provocative story of how undercover anti-animal cruelty activists were trained and sent out to infiltrate the nation's meat industry under the title “Animal Cruelty: The Price We Pay for Cheap Meat.”

This type of law has gained political purchase in only the most liberal states. But these laws initially failed in both California and Massachusetts. Efforts to enact such laws in the more conservative Midwestern and Southern states won't be far behind.

My perspective on such issues is perhaps different than some. I remember my rural grandmother early on a Sunday morning wringing the neck of the chicken that she would serve us hours later for Sunday dinner.

I remember hog-killing time. The old folks would say that we were going to “use everything from that hog but the hair and the squeal.” I know where meat comes from – and it’s not McDonald’s.

The hard truth is that ethical treatment of animals eventually headed to slaughter is possible and that most in that industry subscribe to such practices not because of government regulations but from their conscience and values.

To me, over-regulation that raises the cost of meat beyond the financial means of working families is the greater sin.


Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at



Anonymous said...

That is not a problem. California does not make laws that other states have to follow. No other state should be bound by California laws. Other states should not send any of their products to California. That should not have much effect on the other states.

Anonymous said...

reading and comprehension ...

Anonymous said...

Terribly written article. The solution to this issue is non compliance, let them make their own markets. What is amazing in this situation is that their liberal voter base is intent on eradication of poverty while passing laws that promote poverty.

Anonymous said...

Let's put this into perspective.

Human feces and "used" drug needles are all over the streets of LA & San Fran, but pig lodging within a meat processing plant
is their main concern ?

Typical brain dead "left coast" mentality.

But Nancy Pelosi is worried about her elaborate ice cream freezers
being exposed again.

Anonymous said...

11:13, nice theory, but it doesn't work that way in practice.

If the associations succeed in the suits pending in the federal courts/SCOTUS, then maybe your theory will hold water. But at present, the courts have not provided the answer that you feel is so nice and clear.

In the meantime, the producers are going to be forced into changing their production facilities if they are going to ship their products into these two states. (Not said in Salter's column is that due to the bureaucratic mess in these two states, they are probably going to be forced into delaying the date of required compliance, which will buy some time for the producers.)

The problem is that these two states are large consumers; if the producers refuse to comply, there will be a glut of production. If the producers adapt to these rules, the price of production will increase dramatically, even for the product that is not separated and shipped to these two states.

So, guess they can pass laws that impact the other states, while not in force within them.

We're A Cruel Lot, Mr Grinch! said...

You haven't lived until you've spent a lazy Saturday with a friend, in a jon-boat, poking tiny hooks through the bellies of at least 100 crickets apiece. On a good day, 150 apiece.

Grabbing them out of the cricket box, one at a time, holding them just right, watching that thin, sharp hook pierce their sternum and exit the belly, squirting that stream of juice from the entrails. Then looping your line toward the bushes and snatching a beautiful, multi-colored bream away from her family and running a cord through her mouth and gill and hanging her over the side. Talk about cruelty! The cricket is dead, the bream is flopping and her family is in distress.

We won't detail the process of spooning the scales off in preparation for a great supper. And I forgot to mention the ham sandwich you'd have half way through the morning. The pig that provided that sandwich protested, but, alas. And how many dogs were sacrificed to produce those hush-puppies?

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the shelves remain sparsely stocked at the Dollar General stores, lettuce and cabbage can't be found in major chain grocery stores, Memphians in order to get a better tax rate are shopping in north Mississippi and the gubment is ratcheting up your ability to buy more pork fat and sugar-drinks.

I can remember when Kabouke, Lee, Liles and Moudy (KLLM) decided to haul refrigerated chickens to California (almost 60 years ago) and, on the return trip, brought back loads of refrigerated produce. Thus began the boom of refrigerated trucking business in this state. Now it's being suggested by Salter that California has us by the balls. maybe they do.

Sorry I don't know nothing about dining in Italy.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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