Dec. 13, 2021 -- Several associations that represent California grocery stores and restaurants have filed a lawsuit to delay a farm animal welfare law that could affect the supply of bacon and other pork products in the state.

The lawsuit marks the latest challenge since voters approved Proposition 12 in November 2018. State officials have missed deadlines for releasing specific regulations, The Associated Press reported, and most hog producers haven’t made changes to comply with the law. Now grocers and restaurants are seeking a 28-month delay.

“We’re saying this is not going to work,” Nate Rose, a spokesman for the California Grocers Association, told the AP.

The law requires that suppliers’ breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens, and veal calves be given enough space to stand and turn around. That means pigs can’t be kept in narrow crates and must have 24 square feet of usable space.

Egg and veal producers seem to be able to meet the new law, the outlet said, but hog farmers have said the changes would be too expensive and couldn’t occur until California approves final regulations. An estimate has found that the new standard would cost about 15% more per animal for a farm with 1,000 breeding pigs.

California is the nation’s largest market for pork, and producers in states such as Iowa provide more than 80% of the 255 million pounds that California’s groceries and restaurants use each month, the AP reported. The National Pork Producers Council has challenged California’s right to impose standards on businesses in other states, though the efforts have failed so far.

Under the latest lawsuit, the California Grocers Association, California Restaurant Association, California Retailers Association, and others have requested a 28-month delay until final regulations are adopted. California’s agriculture and health departments are still accepting public comments for revisions this month, which means it could be months before the final rules are approved.

For now, California has eased the transition to the new rules. Pork processed under the old rules and held in cold storage can be sold in the state in 2022, which could prevent shortages. The industry has about 466 million pounds of pork in storage, the AP reported.

Massachusetts has approved a similar animal welfare law that takes effect in January, but state lawmakers are considering a 1-year delay due to supply concerns, according to the AP.