Economist Says It May Be Hard To Find Workers To Update Iowa Hog Barns To Cali Standards

Ames, Iowa — An Iowa State University economist says there was a whole lot of uncertainty in the hog market well before last week’s Supreme Court opinion on pork production.

The court ruled California may require that any pork sold in California must come from pigs that are the offspring of sows that had enough room to turn around in a livestock barn. ISU Extension livestock economist Lee Schulz says some producers have already retrofitted or built new confinements. Others may not be able to afford it.

There could be an opportunity for businesses that make and install the metal enclosures for sows, but Schulz says given the labor market, finding enough employees to do the work will be a challenge.

California produces just one percent of U.S. pork. However, Californians consume 15 percent of all the bacon and other pork products sold in the country.

Nearly a third of the nation’s hogs are raised in Iowa. Schulz says Iowa swine operations that have already adjusted to California’s new rules will get higher premiums for their pigs in the near term.

A court injunction that has prevented pig production rules for pork sold in California from taking effect will expire on July 1st. The U.S. Humane Society says the Supreme Court made it clear preventing animal cruelty is a core function of state governments and California will have the strongest animal welfare law in the country.