There could be opportunities for British pig farmers following California banning pork from many US production systems.

Millions of Californians voted to pass Proposition 12, the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, which ensured that pork sold in the state complied with higher welfare systems including a ban on gestation crates.

Chad Leman, president of Illinois Pork Producers Association and owner of Leman Farms Inc. in Eureka, said: “Sows are put in open pens, where they establish a pecking order, the dominant sows will get too much feed, and the weaker sows will not eat enough.

“Farmers are not able to tell which is sick since there are no individualised food and water lines, therefore we aren’t able to take as good of care of our animals. There’s a reason that the pork industry has evolved to where we are today, we found out what we used to do didn’t work as good as what we do now,” he said.

Scott Hays, president of National Pork Producers Council, expressed disappointment with the decision of a legal case brought by the pig industry against the ruling but failed in court: “allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation.”

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As a result of the ruling the supply of pork entering the state fell and sales have dropped according to the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE). At the same time the price of loins, ribs, and bellies, all increased by an a average of 20%. Meanwhile pork prices in other states have not significantly increased.

While the tighter production rules have knocked US domestic farmers out of the market, AHDB believe there is an opportunity for British pig producers. A group of six pig farmers travelled to the US earlier in 2024 with AHDB to interstage the opportunity. “With 40% of our pig production bred outdoors, the introduction of Proposition 12 in California has the potential to create significant export opportunities for British pig meat exporters. It emphasises how important animal welfare is to consumers and the great work that our farmers and the industry in general are doing,” said Susana Morris, AHDB senior trade development manager.

“California has a population of circa 40 million, with 15% of US pig meat production consumed there. However, US domestic production is unlikely to be able to meet demand in California for pig meat produced to the new higher standards in the short term. “British pig meat producers are, however, well placed to meet some of this demand, and our trade mission is aimed at helping our industry showcase our world-class produce and maximise this new opportunity. “Other states are also making similar proposals to California and therefore further opportunities could present themselves more widely in the US in the future. Again, our pig meat sector will be in a strong position to meet this demand as and when it comes to fruition. In the meantime, we look forward to this mission bearing fruit.

“Our levy payers have made it very clear how much they value AHDB’s export activity and our latest mission is a further demonstration of how we are working with the industry to help deliver tangible outcomes for the pig meat sector,” she concluded.