New Jersey has increased how much space must be provided to pregnant sows. | Photo: Shutterstock
New Jersey has followed California and Massachusetts in changing how pork has to be produced for restaurants and retailers, raising the chances of shortages and a spike in costs.
The bill signed into law Wednesday by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy requires that pregnant sows be kept in pens that provide more room than the gestation crates many growers currently use.
The measure also mandates more pen space for calves that are being raised for veal.
The California and Massachusetts laws that served as models prohibit pork from animals born in gestation crates smaller than the newly legislated standards from being sold in the state regardless of where the pigs were birthed. Massachusetts’ version even prohibits meat from animals grown in substandard conditions from being transported through the state, essentially disrupting shipments throughout New England.
Because California and Massachusetts account for about a quarter of all pork that’s sold in the United States, their new restrictions are expected to force a costly and time-consuming changeover to new hog farming methods virtually nationwide. In the meantime, pork producers warn, production will drop steeply and prices will swing sharply upward.
Prices aren’t expected to drop fully back to current levels because of the costs of the conversions and the resulting limitations on production capacities. Because the mandated crates take up more room, fewer of them will fit in the space currently reserved by a farm for housing sows.
The specifics of the New Jersey law have yet to be written. The legislation states that the regulatory details will be drafted within the next 180 days.
The bill specifies that pig growers within the state face fines and potentially other penalties if they fail to meet the new space standards. But it does not ban the sale of meat within New Jersey from all animals reared under those conditions, an omittance that could permit pork from nonconforming farmers in other states from being sold. It remains to be seen if that loophole is closed in the rule-writing process.
A law similar to the New Jersey measure is expected to be taken up in coming weeks or months by New York.
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