Meat Industry Takes Aim at California’s Cage-Free Law

Voters in California last November approved a ballot initiative, known as Proposition 12, that mandates larger, cage-free spaces for breeding pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens. The new law also means out-of-state producers have to meet those standards to sell their products there.

The North American Meat Institute is asking a federal court to halt implementation of the law, claiming that the burden on non-California producers is illegal. The group argues in the lawsuit that Prop 12 impedes interstate commerce and violates the Constitution’s “commerce clause.”

“If this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand, California will dictate farming practices across the nation,” said NAMI President Julie Anna Potts in a statement. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The law would “likely result in an increase in prices for eggs, pork and veal.” Some farmers will need to build new livestock housing and might pass on those costs to consumers — and because a temporary shortfall could occur while they remodel their operations, driving up demand and prices.

Under Prop 12, calves must have 43 square feet of floor space by 2020, while pigs are required to have 24 square feet starting in 2022. Hens must have one square foot by next year and be “cage-free” by 2022.