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5 bold swine predictions for 2024

5 bold swine predictions for 2024

Canadian swine sales into the US will also be impacted unless they comply with California’s Prop 12 law.

By Andrew Joseph,; Image via: Heavily Meditated Life/iStcok/Getty Images Plus photo

Prop 12 is now in full effect, as of January 1, 2024.

As of September 1, 2022, California’s new animal health and welfare regulation, Proposition 12 (Prop 12), was ushered in. The state law, with US national and international implications, prohibits the strict confinement of breeding pigs.

Since California itself has almost zero pig breeding operations within its stately borders, Prop 12 means that the state will not allow any pig or pig product into California where the animal was not confined in housing acceptable to the state.

There are some exceptions, but only for sows: when being transported, used in research, individually treated, immediately before slaughter, five days before the expected farrowing date, and when nursing piglets.

To comply, pig farmers will need to provide more space for their herds. While some have the space, financial resources, and capacity to do that, many farms either do not have the capital or have yet to complete the construction of acceptable Prop 12 swine habitats. Things have to be government-approved, after all, and that takes time.

Five predictions for 2024?

Prediction 1: The cost of compliance for US pig farmers looking to sell their pigs and/or hog products in California is high, meaning that the US national pig herd will shrink.

Prediction 2: It will also mean that the Canadian swine market has one fewer customer unless Canadian farms become Prop 12 compliant.

To be fair, many US and Canadian swine farms have become compliant. But have enough? Which leads us to...

Prediction 3: California consumers are going to have a pork shortage and higher overall costs to purchase pork products until more swine businesses become Prop 12 compliant.

Now, Prop 12 was not aimed solely at pork producers. Its animal welfare statement referenced that meat (all types of meat) and eggs could not be sold in California unless they came from animals raised in compliance with the state’s new welfare regulations.

Egg and veal producers quickly fell in line with Prop 12, but pork producers around the US rebelled, challenging the constitutionality of a state (California) being allowed to dictate how other states (the other 49) went about their business.

But, the court case was lost, and Prop 12 became a law for how California wants to do business with the rest of the states, Canada, and the world. 

Prop 12 instructs that every breeding sow have at least 24 square feet of space and have enough space to turn around, extend its limbs, etc.

While pork farmers have compassion for animal welfare, the cost of doing business the California way is high financially.

It was especially galling for the swine farmers, as California consumers rely upon 99 percent (or more) of its pork products from outside the state.

Hog industry estimates indicate approximately US$3,500 per sow will need to be spent to retrofit the existing penning areas at farms to comply with Prop 12—so if a farm has 1,000 pigs, it will cost US$3.5 million.

That’s a lot of bacon ($) that needs to be brought home.

In the US, the 2023 projected net cash hog farm income was $330,000, a prediction that has it down by 28 percent from 2022.

In 2023, the US hog industry saw low demand and high hog prices.

Prediction 4: Smaller hog farms, even so-called medium-sized ones, may find their profit margins non-existent, forcing them to sell to larger business entities.

Prediction 5: Consolidation within the pork industry will continue—all for one, and one for all—which will concern consumers, producers, swine associations, and lawmakers.

Anyway, folks. These are just some predictions from the author. Whether any of the predictions come to pass is a game best left to the likes of Nostradamus or Kreskin et al.

Instead, be aware and have a happy 2024.

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