Bacongate: How a new law may affect breakfast plates in California

A pile of cooked bacon
Starting in 2022, California will begin enforcing the second part of Proposition 12 , which requires more space for breeding animals such as pigs — even if they are out of state.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Aug. 5. I’m Justin Ray.

An animal protection law passed years ago has some fearing the end of bacon in California in 2022. The panic began due to an Associated Press report that dropped last weekend.

Here’s what all the talk is about: Proposition 12 — the Farm Animal Confinement Proposition — was overwhelmingly passed by voters back in 2018. At the beginning of 2022, the state will begin enforcing the second part the law that requires more space for breeding animals such as pigs and egg-laying chickens. For pigs specifically, it says they must be raised in spaces that are at least 24 square feet, up from 20 square feet set in 2020.

Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society, called California’s law “the strongest law for farm animals in the world,” according to the Washington Post. The organization has said the law ensures that “pork, eggs and veal products produced or sold in the California marketplace come from facilities that do not confine animals in tiny cages for their entire lives.”

The hitch is, the law also applies to out-of-state suppliers who sell pork products to the Golden State. These vendors are optimistic they can comply with the standards, but so far only 4% of hog operations are in compliance with the new rules, according to the AP. That means that unless courts take action or the state allows noncompliant meat to be sold temporarily, the state’s pork supply might become very low. With the law taking effect Jan. 1, there is not a lot of time for the necessary retrofitting.


A lot of the state’s pork products come from Iowa, the largest pork producer in the United States. California consumes roughly 15% of all pork produced in the country. Restaurants and groceries in the Golden State use about 255 million pounds of pork a month, but the state’s farms produce only 45 million pounds, Rabobank, a global food and agriculture financial services company, told the AP.

Michael Formica, general counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, told the Post that the ballot initiative was written by people who don’t know how to raise animals and simply want America to ditch meat. “The Humane Society of United States’ goal is the elimination of meat on the table,” he said.

A consulting firm hired by opponents of the state proposition found that if half the pork supply was suddenly gone, bacon prices would increase 60%, meaning a $6 package would cost about $9.60. But California’s new rules could become a national standard because sellers cannot lose the market in such a large state.

You can read the whole report here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

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The U.S. Forest Service has told its firefighters to stop its practice of monitoring some fires rather than quickly extinguishing them. The policy change came days after Gov. Gavin Newsom and politicians in other western states publicly challenged the “let it burn” practice because of the potential for fires to become uncontrollable. Instead of letting some naturally caused small blazes to burn, the agency’s priorities will shift this year, U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore indicated to staff in a letter Monday. The focus, he said, will be on firefighter and public safety. Los Angeles Times


California water regulators took unprecedented action this week, passing an emergency regulation that will bar thousands of state farmers from diverting stream and river water as the drought worsens, according to reporter and former Essential California newsletter writer Julia Wick. The State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the “emergency curtailment” order for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed. The regulation — which gives the state water board the authority to issue emergency curtailments and require reporting on water use — will go into effect about two weeks from now. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles will consider a proposal to require proof of COVID-19 inoculation as a condition of entry at a host of indoor public spaces in what, if passed, would be the widest-ranging vaccination-verification effort in the city. The motion, introduced Wednesday by City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, would require people to demonstrate that they’ve received at least one vaccine dose to visit indoor places such as restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, spas, movie theaters, stadiums and concert venues. Los Angeles Times

Lawyers for Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer attempted to counter a woman’s accusation that Bauer sexually assaulted her by releasing text messages the woman exchanged with Bauer and others. It’s unclear how many texts between the two exist and how Bauer’s legal team came to select the ones it placed in the court file. An attorney for the woman dismissed the new filing, saying, “Mr. Bauer’s defense team is deliberately twisting the tone of text messages exchanged with an assault victim within hours of her being attacked to try to minimize the long-lasting impact on her physical and mental well-being to this day.” Los Angeles Times

Pitcher Trevor Bauer
Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer on the mound during a spring training game against the Colorado Rockies.
(Rob Tringali / Getty Images)

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Despite the best intentions of Californians who try to recycle products, it turns out that at least 85% of single-use plastics in the state do not actually get recycled. Instead, they end up in the trash. “Americans find recycling … more confusing than building IKEA furniture, doing their taxes, playing the stock market or understanding their spouse,” state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) said, citing a study by the Consumer Brands Assn. The issue inspired Allen to create a bill that lays out exactly what kind of packages can carry the triangular recycle symbol. CalMatters



Man is charged with murder in ‘horrific’ burning of victim in East Oakland. Alameda County prosecutors say an altercation led to a man being doused with flammable liquid and set on fire during an altercation in East Oakland. Andre Weston, 58, was charged with murder roughly five months after the attack on William Vann, 58. Police said Vann had been beaten and stabbed before he was set on fire. “This horrific death was senseless and the person responsible is being held accountable,” Oakland police Homicide Investigator Robert Hardy said. Weston’s attorney information wasn’t available. San Francisco Chronicle

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Some good news on the COVID front. California has seen a substantial increase in the number of people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 over the past two weeks. The recent boost is a promising development after weeks of rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations fueled by the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus. The rise in inoculations may be the result of a growing list of municipalities, businesses and venues that are moving to require the shots for employees and, in some cases, customers in hopes of slowing the latest surge. Los Angeles Times


As COVID-19 cases surge throughout the region, San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are hustling to immunize an array of animals. By the end of this week, they’ll have doled out first doses to roughly 250 animals, many of them endangered species. Recent events have given these efforts fresh urgency. On Monday, the Safari Park learned that five of its six Sumatran tigers have COVID-19 after testing stool samples from the animals. San Diego Union-Tribune

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Los Angeles: 86. San Diego: Get a slurpee from 7-Eleven! 77. San Francisco: Overcast, 67. San Jose: Get an iced coffee? 75. Fresno: 98. Sacramento: Great weather for listening to some Enya! ‘whoooo cann sayyyy wheeeeere the rooooooaaad goeess wheeere the daaaaay flooows onlyyyy tiiiiime’ 89.


Today’s California memory is from Ellen Pierce:

In 2001, I lived in Fairfax in Marin County and worked in the San Francisco financial district. I biked 8 1/2 miles from trees and rolling hills to the Larkspur. Then on a choppy bay in a “flying” ferry, I was dropped at Market Street. “Welcome to the concrete jungle.” Then to my gym located south of Market Street, for a mini-workout, dressing for work, and finally after 2 hours … I’m at the office. This routine happened rain or shine. It included a sometimes glorious sunrise and a “full-moon” setting. While physically challenging, I experienced city life, beautiful landscapes and nature.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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