Will California's animal protection rule raise food prices?

California’s proposition to ensure animals being raised for consumption are not housed in spaces that are too small is being challenges by U.S. meat industry in federal court.

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The North American Meat Institute filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging the constitutionality of what is known as Proposition 12, arguing that it will significantly increase costs for consumers and regulates interstate commerce, which is an exclusive federal power.

“Prop. 12 hurts the family on a budget with higher prices for pork, veal and eggs, and unfairly punishes livestock producers outside of California by forcing them to spend millions more just to access California markets,” Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said. “California’s overreach creates an unworkable patchwork of differing state regulations that will make it impossible for the supply chain, from small farmers to your local grocer, to function.”

The Meat Institute argues the measure discriminates against interstate and foreign commerce.

Proposition 12 was approved by voters in a November referendum and it bans the sale of raw veal, pork or eggs derived from animals that were enclosed in areas that do not meet certain minimum space requirements. Egg-laying hens, for example, must have one square foot by next year, and be cage-free by 2022. It also bans the sale of uncooked cuts of pork from breeding pigs – and their offspring.

Costs may rise if farmers have to build new housing for animals to meet the requirements.

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Because the sale of products from animals that do not meet those requirements would be prohibited in California, the group argues that the proposition effective regulates how “sows and veal calves are housed everywhere in the United States.”

The Meat Institute represents a number of power players — both packers and processers in the red meat industry — including Tyson Foods, WhiteCastle, In-N-Out Burger, Hormel Foods Corporation and Cargill.