ERS analyzes the impact of welfare policies for state sows on the production of pork.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released an extensive report that outlines all state welfare laws for farm animals as well as the extent of their implementation and issues these policies have had to face.
Since 2002, fourteen U.S. states have passed and adopted legislation that directly affects U.S. livestock production practices. Ten states have prohibited the use of crates used for gestation sows.
In 2002 Florida was the only state in the nation to adopt the farm welfare policy that dealt with how to use gestation cages, also known as stalls in the pork industry in Florida’s pork production. The amendment provided to use crate containers right before birth however, it does not prohibit the routine confinement for pregnant sows.
In the past 20 years, nine more states have also followed suit by bans on gestation crates used in the production of pork: Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island. All the laws came into effect on or before 2022, with the exception of Ohio in which rules for gestation crate use are scheduled to take effect in 2026.
The majority of the states that have banned gestation crates in their respective states have very small sectors of production for pork that produce less than one percent of the total annual volume of the industry; the states of Michigan as well as Ohio together have contributed to an average of 4.5 percent of U.S. pork production since 2002.
In 2026, it’s thought that the ban on gestation crates will affect more than 7 percent from all of the U.S. breeding herd and more than 18 percent in breeding farms.
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Conventional gestation crates generally offer around fourteen square feet for each sow. Although the original policies dealt with the behaviors that require space for the pregnant pig to lay down and stand up, extend its legs and turn around without restriction, more recent guidelines define an absolute space requirement. California’s Proposition 12 sets a minimum of 24 square feet for each breeding porcine.
The ERS report examines the ways other states have tried to adopt similar legislation. The state of New Jersey, gestation crate bills were twice rejected by Governors in 2013 as well as in 2014. The governor of New York, state legislators have introduced a number of bills pertaining to the confinement of animals since the year 2011.
In March 2022, the federation legislation was introduced in the Pigs in Gestation Stalls (PIGS) Act of 2022 (H.R. 7004). Similar to state regulations, this bill sought to prevent keeping pregnant animals in a fashion which does not allow sitting down, standing up or turning.
California and Massachusetts as well as Massachusetts also have provisions in their respective laws that prohibit sales of pork derived from any animals or offspring of animals raised under prohibited conditions regardless of in which the pork was raised.
In addition, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation filed an appeal to Prop 12 in December 2018 asking the court to declare it unconstitutional in accordance with the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In October 2022 the U.S. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments.
The SCOTUS decision is expected by the beginning of 2023. Massachusetts was also set to implement an outright ban on sales of pork produced in confinement facilities that are not in conformity with the state’s law in 2022. but enforcement has been suspended for 30 days following a Supreme Court ruling.
This ERS report also outlined the cost of changing the traditional gestation crate to make room for the additional space needed for breeding pigs. In estimating a productivity loss of 18% because of a lower capacity for stocking as well as a $225 per cost for converting the stalls, Seibert and Norwood (2011) observed that changing to a farrow-to-finish method away from gestation stalls results in an $1.15 annualized investment cost for each completed animal.
They estimated a 3 to 4-cent increase, or about 8.7 percent in the per-pound cost of producing finished hogs using the absence of stalls in a gestation system, in comparison to the gestation stall method.
The report also discusses the burden on the consumers of California and Massachusetts because both states depend on the production of pork outside their borders, and very few pork producers outside of those states have changed to conforming housing.
Lee et al. (2021) estimates that the retail costs for pork across California will rise by 7.7 percent, which will reduce the demand by 6.3 percent, resulting in the loss each year of 320 million in economic benefits to consumers.
Then, ERS investigated the impact Massachusetts and California bans could affect trade. Since 2008, over 15 percent of U.S. pork imports have been targeted to California or Massachusetts. U.S. pork imports primarily come in countries like the EU and Canada and Canada, with Canada being responsible for more than 57 percent in U.S. pork imports in 2020 and 2021.
The EU has mandated group housing for pork production since 2013 and has minimum requirements for space in the range of 17.65 square feet of space for gilts, and 24.22 square feet for sows. The Canadian National Farm Animal Care Council estimates that 60 percent of the country’s produced pork will go free of crate in 2024.
ERS states, “if Canadian and EU pork production conforms to proposed rules and pledges, the top two sources for U.S. imported pork will be positioned to supply policy-compliant pork to states with retail sales restrictions on pork produced in gestation crate systems.”
National Pork Board