Prop 12 has created a mess in California’s food supply chain

Latino community taking the hardest hit.

Ann Hess, Content Director

May 10, 2024

3 Min Read
National Pork Board

Young, diverse and low-income consumers across California are feeling the pinch from Proposition 12 as they are finding a shortage of pork products and significant price increases.

Food Equity Alliance works with various members of California’s food supply chain from small Hispanic restaurants and grocers to Hispanic families and consumers. Alliance member and President/CEO of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce Julian Canete says all have been impacted by the chaos created by Proposition 12.

“We're also finding an underground market who are out of compliance, of pork being sold, because consumers cannot afford a price increase on pork. This product has always been a protein staple for the Hispanic community, as well as other communities of color. Ultimately, Californians and small businesses, primarily owned by persons of color, are being heavily impacted as pork dishes make up a main staple in a variety of ethnic dishes, snacks and other food products,” says Canete. “This is why the Food Equity Alliance is calling on Congress to keep in mind Proposition 12’s startling impact on American families and businesses. We fear the same food affordability issues in California will come for the rest of the country without congressional action.”

According to a white paper released by economist Lon Hatamiya, president and CEO of the Hatamiya Group, retail pork prices in California have increased on average by 20% since July 1, 2023, compared to the rest of the United States. As a result, the state's share of national pork consumption has declined, falling from 10% to less than 8% as of January 31, 2024.

As for specific fresh pork cut retail sale prices, average increases varied in the state from July 1, 2023, through February 1, 2024:

  • Bacon prices were 16% higher

  • Pork rib prices were 17% higher

  • Pork loin prices were 41% higher

  • Pork shoulder prices were 17% higher

  • Fresh ham prices were 20% higher

The 2024 California study utilized research by economists Hannah Hawkins, Shawn Arita, and Seth Meyer with the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist. Specifically, the USDA economists have been analyzing prices and quantities of hogs and covered pork products as the industry has been adjusting to the uncertainty of Prop 12 implementation.

“California consumers most negatively impacted by these higher pork prices are younger, more diverse, are communities of color and certainly lower income folks,” says Hatamiya.

Food Equity Alliance member and Chairman of the Latin Business Association Ruben Guerra says Prop 12 is a “mess” and has created chaos and confusion throughout the state’s food supply chain, raising prices on some of the most popular pork items on the menu. For example the price of a pork carnitas taco has gone up from $1.50 to now $3 or $4.

“Food insecurity is an issue, and we must take it seriously. Over 3 million households in California were considered food insecure, including over 1 million families with children. Food insecurity can lead to hunger, poor physical and mental health or poor academic performance," says Guerra. "Those behind Prop 12 want to end meat consumption, not only in California, but throughout the nation. And they're attempting to achieve this objective by making products such as pork unattainable for the average consumer. We know that Prop 12 is hurting Californians and the Latino community is taking the hardest hit.”

Hatamiya believes the situation will get worse before it gets better, and consumers will most likely not turn to an alternative protein.

“Just because someone stops buying pork doesn't mean they're going to buy chicken or beef. That’s been noted in several studies,” Hatamiya says. “People that were relying upon pork will just not have a protein source because the other protein sources aren't necessarily more affordable.

“Pork makes up a huge percentage of the diet of many of our ethnic communities in California. Not only the Latino and Hispanic community, but the Asian community and the African American and Black community across the state. So you are going to see some major impacts upon the ability to consume, and this is a health issue too. Do they have enough affordable protein to consume into the future?”

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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