Is Bacon Actually Banned in California?

A 2018 animal welfare proposition will have sweeping effects in the coming year.

August  4, 2021
Photo by Mike Kemp/Getty Images

Is a bacon ban really looming in California? That’s been the pressing question among meat lovers for days after the Associated Press sounded the alarm on the upcoming implementation of Proposition 12, a law in California that will require a larger minimum confinement area for pigs, egg-laying chicken, and calves. The good news is that this doesn’t mean that bacon or other pork products will be all-out banned in the Golden State, but the legislation, which will go into effect in 2022, will impact farmers, restaurateurs, and consumers, as the price of pork will likely increase in a few years.

What Is Proposition 12?

Although pork lovers are biting their fingernails, wondering if they’ll be able to enjoy bacon strips with breakfast or a nice, crispy pork schnitzel at dinner, this measure isn’t anything new. It was actually on ballots in California way back in 2018.

California Proposition 12, aka the “Farm Animal Confinement Initiative” would establish the minimum space requirements for calves being raised for veal, pigs, and egg-laying hens and ban the sale of veal from calves, pork from pigs, and eggs from hens if the animals were confined to areas below the minimum square-feet requirements. In short, it’s just a law that guarantees more humane conditions for animals.

And what’s more, the measure was pretty popular. In November 2018, 62.66 percent of California residents voted yes to Prop 12, saying that the measures outlined above should be enforced.

So really, it has nothing to do with banning bacon or any other beloved meat products. It’s all about ensuring that the meat Californians consume comes from humane farms and responsibly-raised animals who have had enough room to live and breathe. Seems reasonable, right?

So, Why Is Everyone Freaking Out?

The proposition may have slipped the mind of the average Californian. But the AP has so kindly reminded us that the state is less than six months away from implementing and enforcing the ban, which has people worried that these products are going to be banned altogether. Once again, bacon will not be banned in California. Say it louder for the people in the back.

What this does mean is that bacon and other pork products will likely become more expensive in the state of California. Currently, only 4 percent of pork farms meet the new standards for the minimum confinement area. Most veal and egg producers have not raised concerns about being able to meet the minimum confinement area, which is why there aren’t headlines like “There’s a Ban on Eggs in California” or “Say Goodbye to Veal Parmesan.”

Is California Alone In This?

Although this is the most headline-grabbing measure in recent history, California is not by any means the only state to implement a measure that will encourage more humane practices among farmers and meat producers. A total of 13 other states including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington have all passed legislation or regulations that ban things like gestation crates, battery cages, and veal crates in their states, and also ban the sale of products that have come from animals raised in these conditions.

Prop 12 is a bigger deal because it fundamentally changes the blueprint of pork, veal, and egg farms by expanding the space requirements for animals.

But I Thought Everyone in California Only Ate Avocados?

Very funny, but no. Californians consume 225 million pounds of pork each month, according to ABC-100. That’s about 15 percent of the total amount of pork consumed nationwide each month. However, farmers in the state only produce approximately 45 million pounds of pork each month, meaning that the vast majority of the meat comes from outside farmers. If farmers across the country don’t comply with California’s new regulations, the price of pork will increase dramatically within just a few years.

A study conducted by a consulting firm hired by opponents of Prop 12 estimated that bacon prices would increase by 60 percent if out-of-state farmers don’t comply. That means that a $6 package of bacon could soon cost $9.60.

What Does the Pork Industry Have to Say?

Surprise, surprise, they’re not happy about it! The National Pork Producers Council and a coalition of California restaurants and business groups have petitioned the courts to delay the new requirements, but the courts have continued to side with the nearly 63 percent of California voters who are in favor of the new animal welfare practices.

The new changes will cost farmers more money, as they’ll need to invest in more space and structures to expand the animal’s confinement spaces. If the farmers spend more money on their pigs, then the price of meat will increase, thus changing the cost of consumer-facing pork products like bacon, pork chops, and sausage.

But more expensive products does not mean banned products, so even if prices are going up, Californians aren’t going to have to take a long road trip for their next bacon, egg, and cheese.

What do you think about Proposition 12? Sound off in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • sharskee
  • jpriddy
  • Rachelm
  • leslie
  • dale
Former Food52 Staff Editor


sharskee August 8, 2021
Wow, what a completely disappointing lede and headline from a website about food that appears not to care much about the ethics for how our food is sourced and treated. Truly expected better and felt like I was reading a Fox News article. I hope you guys do better overall in the future. Food people should absolutely care more about the welfare of animals that ends up on their plates.
jpriddy August 5, 2021
Harpers magazine has done articles about the impact of factory farms. The one about the cruelty of hog farms dates to 2006. This is from a 2016 article: "Each hog produces the waste of about 2.5 people, meaning Iowa bears the shit equivalent, from hogs alone, of about 45 million people, some fifteen times its human population. But Iowa also has 52 million laying chickens, 50 million of which are in concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs) that hold more than 100,000 birds."
jpriddy August 5, 2021
First, we expect to pay way too little for met in this country. Grains and other feed are subsidized and the scale of "growers" has exploded.

Second, the way most hogs are raised in the U.S. today is particularly horrifying. I stayed at an old style hog farm in the 1970s. The animals were running loose up in the Missouri woods and I never saw one of them. At the time I was very interested in how the food I ate was raised and have paid attention ever since. As the meat industry grew into factory farms, I ate less and less meat. I have been vegetarian for a very long time. My husband too.
Rachelm August 5, 2021
Since your article states that bacon is NOT banned in CA, your title is a bit of hyperbole. Also, as someone living in CA, I can tell you that no one is 'freaking out' - though some restauranteurs are nervous that their costs will increase.
leslie August 5, 2021
I live between England and California…. The UK has more stringent animal welfare laws and they still eat pork and chicken —- as well as beef and lamb. Don’t get your knickers in a twist, as they say in London. Get over it. The REAL cost of food needs to be borne by those of us who eat it!!! Organic, welfare, carbon footprint. All these concerns are real and we should pay for them. California is out in front of the other states, and I think you can see that in their treatment of animals, farm workers, pesticide control etc. California may be more expensive, but it is the future, the important future where we are concerned about the entire process, and not just wanting to get cheap bacon.
jpriddy August 5, 2021
dale August 4, 2021
your article was 100 % true, but the reality is you just condemned a lot of baby pigs to die. sows in crates keep them from laying on the little pigs so if they are in the same pen the sow will lay on some of them and kill them.
jpriddy August 5, 2021
And that is because we have bred hogs to be leaner, weaker, and incapable of standing up or caring for their own young. And hogs are smart animals, smarter than dogs. So you would prefer they stood 24/7 rather than lie down?

fyi I the US, most "baby pigs" are the result of AI, live in misery all their lives, die horribly, and are eaten. Suffocation under their mothers is not a crueler alternative.
EmMa August 5, 2021
Actually that’s not true; sows have accidentally squished their young forever. If they’re truly stressed, they eat the young. They’re animals, and we shouldn’t be treating them better than the people raising them. Laws like this make it nearly impossible for ranchers and farmers, who already struggle to make a profit especially competing against agribusiness. This article makes it sound like farmers will “just” need to buy more land or grow fewer animals. There’s no “just” about it for those living it. This will eliminate many of the remaining family farmers, and that’s not green, ethical, or anything else. If you want to help the problem, help the small-time farmers.
dale August 6, 2021
you said it right i grew up on a farm and i know what i m talking about My rabbits chickens and cows were kind of like pets, but we ate them all
dale August 8, 2021
50 years ago the sows layed on the little pigs confining them stopped a lot of this, were you ever on a farm