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California Regulations Have Helped Kill the Golden Pig

California Regulations Have Helped Kill the Golden Pig

Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant in Vernon closes, and company cites ‘escalating costs’ and regulations demands as basis for relocation decision.

Last summer I wrote that at the start of 2022, California would enforce the Farm Animal Confinement Proposition (Prop 12), approved by voters in 2018 and requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens, and veal calves.

I predicted that the state’s move would make many products, including bacon, more expensive and harder to obtain.

The move also appears to have killed the golden pig of pork production, as the largest pork processor in the country is closing its operation in Vernon, CA.

Smithfield Foods Inc., the largest pork processor in the U.S. by volume, is closing an 1,800-person plant in California and shrinking the size of its hog herd in the region, saying the cost of doing business in the state wasn’t worth it.

Smithfield, owned by Hong Kong-based pork conglomerate WH Group Ltd., 288 0.00%▲ said Friday that it would close the plant in Vernon, Calif., just outside of Los Angeles, in early 2023, citing higher taxes, utility costs and labor costs in the state compared with other areas where it operates.

…Smithfield also said part of the reason it closed the facility was the regulatory environment in the state. Specifically, a state law passed by voters in 2018 and backed by the Humane Society, called Proposition 12. It requires breeding pigs, or sows, to be able to lie down and turn around in spaces in which they are housed, essentially outlawing pork produced using small gestation stalls in most circumstances.

Pork producers and suppliers have resisted, saying such moves would raise meat prices by causing farmers to spend millions of dollars changing their operations, create supply-chain chaos and risk their pigs’ health.

When one state senator used profanity directed at Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the billionaire tech giant moved his headquarters to Texas. So, when California voters chose to go all-in with the animal activists rather than fully considering the realities of meat production, it should not surprise anyone that the executives of these firms are also relocating their facilities.

Additionally, the Vernon plant was a target of many rabid activists…both in and out of government.

The Vernon plant has been the target of repeated protests by animal rights activists over its treatment of hogs. It also was hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some 300 employees exposed to infections in 2020. Several were hospitalized.

California´s Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined Smithfield Foods about $60,000 for safety violations that exposed workers to infection.

There are other disturbing developments related to pork production too. Due to the increasing costs of feed (elated by the rising prices of fertilizer and fuel), swine herds are being reduced.

The supply of hogs in the U.S. also isn’t expected to grow soon as higher feed, labor and material costs have weighed on pig farmers, making it too expensive for them to expand, said Lee Schulz, a livestock economist at Iowa State University. For processors, if the supply of hogs isn’t increasing, it makes sense to cut high-cost plants that might not even be running at capacity, he said.

Smithfield plans to decrease its sow herd in Utah and is exploring strategic options to exit its farms in Arizona and California.

Smithfield Foods was the largest employer in Vernon.

The company said it’s providing transition assistance to all impacted employees, including relocation options to other company facilities and farms as well as retention incentives.

“We hope that another operator will take advantage of the highly trained and stable workforce that makes the Farmer John plant a productive and profitable part of Vernon’s packing infrastructure,” said Grant.

Sources tell ABC7 between 1,800 and 2,500 employees are set to be laid off.

Between food scarcity and inflation, Californians are likely under challenging times. However, in this case, they have contributed directly to this problem. I fear they will soon learn that the taste of moral superiority can be very bitter.


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SeiteiSouther | June 14, 2022 at 11:05 am




The Gentle Grizzly | June 14, 2022 at 11:11 am

Sorry to see the jobs go. But, I avoid Smithfield due to them being Chinese owned.

    CommoChief in reply to The Gentle Grizzly. | June 14, 2022 at 11:30 am

    Personally I don’t worry about it for a couple of reasons. Applying that policy consistently is too arduous; these are mostly publicly traded corps. No buying a Mercedes, Honda or Hyundai even though they manufacture in Alabama? No flying on an Airbus A320 or A220 which are assembled in Alabama? It’s too much, IMO and hurts American workers.

    Secondly I use local or regional companies when the option exists. We have several local producers of sausage, bacon and hams. Finally if it gets down to brass tacks the US based facilities of Smithfield or any other facilities with foreign ownership can always be seized. See Russian assets being confiscated by a host of Nations.

      Smithfield IS my local company.
      It’s hard to get anything but Smithfield ham around here.

        CommoChief in reply to GWB. | June 14, 2022 at 3:43 pm

        This is the web address for ordering product from our local company. I buy in local grocery so haven’t used the online order system and can’t vouch for the online system. I can vouch for the products sausage, bacon, hams, turkey, hot dog.

    I’m right there with you, Griz. I was in Kroger’s the other day and $1.99/lb pork butts caught my eye. And then I saw Chinese owned American (in name only) labeled Smithfield. No thanks, Smithfield and all the other Chinese companies can go to hell. Why are we letting a former (and possible future) enemy do business on our soil? It may make sense to some people but why are we enable an adversary to profit off of us? This is one of the most in your face symptoms of the insanity in this country. Boycott Smithfield. Boycott China.

      The Gentle Grizzly in reply to WestRock. | June 14, 2022 at 2:33 pm

      A lot of “American” companies are hardy what they seem. General Motors comes to mind: they have a US address of convenience, but, go to a Chevy dealer. The pickups may be made here (or Canada or Mexico), but most of the cars are Korean. The Buick dealer’s best seller is made in China, and I believe one or two Caddies are from there as well.

      General Electric makes a few engines and generators, but, not primarily is a licensing concern for Chinese companies to put the GE name on their products, or, entire divisions (GE major appliances) are sold off, and the US factories closed.

      I’ll buy something foreign-based if I see my metaphorical neighbors are employed. Nissan (Smyrna TN) and Hyundai (Alabama) are but two examples. Lever Brothers (British)m have plants here.

      I simply draw the line at China unless I have absolutely no choice. An example there: I have yet to find an Android phone that doesn’t annoy me with ads and popups so I have a Chinese-made iPhone. FAR fewer annoyances, and good customer service. (Ever try to get Samsung to do anything?)

        “I simply draw the line at China unless I have absolutely no choice.”

        You have to draw a line somewhere and in my opinion that is the best place to draw it.

They want us eating bugs.
Bacon will be added my list of stuff reserved for twice a year treats, like a good steak, or Jameson.

    stablesort in reply to amwick. | June 15, 2022 at 3:50 am

    Of course if sufficient numbers of customers reserves these foods for rare occasions, the foods won’t be available for any occasion.

amatuerwrangler | June 14, 2022 at 11:30 am

Smithfield is also shutting down operations in Beaver County, UT. It is the largest employer in the 6500 population county; 250 jobs gone.

Californians to Smithfield: “Let them eat cake” (not bacon).

Companies should move out of California and then charge twice as much for products they send to California since they think people have bottomless wallets.

Another 1800-2500 illegals out of work. Maybe they’ll go back….. nah, there’s always welfare.

Does it scare the hell out of anybody else that the largest producers of our food are foreign?

    Capsaicin_Addict in reply to Dathurtz. | June 14, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Strictly speaking, they’re not. The companies are foreign owned, but the production is still here, stateside.

    That being said, it does make one raise an eyebrow.

    CommoChief in reply to Dathurtz. | June 14, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    Not ideal but not a disaster. It isn’t as if they can take the farms back to China as with IP or manufacturing. In a worst case scenario the States or Feds can simply seize the assets, it wouldn’t be the first time govt did so.

Will this be the issue that inspires an exodus? Californians put up with homelessness, taxes, bums defecting on public streets and sidewalks, gun control, water rationing, brown outs …


From what I understand (we farmed cows, not pigs) the type of pen they were using restricts the sow from moving and *crushing* the piglets. After all, they’re not models of grace and dexterity but more like… um… pigs. So the law is going to not only require more space for the farm to raise fewer pigs, but more squashed baby pigs to be disposed of and therefore a higher price per pound of processed pork.

Smart businesses have already fled California.

Subotai Bahadur | June 14, 2022 at 3:15 pm

It is not perfect, but it is a start. California is already totally dependent on imports of water and power. Now if we can just add food to it. Especially since they are helping us by shutting down their own [non-cannabis] agricultural sector.

Subotai Bahadur

healthguyfsu | June 14, 2022 at 3:51 pm

“However, in this case, they have contributed directly to this problem. I fear they will soon learn that the taste of moral superiority can be very bitter.”

I’m frankly quite tired of hearing this reasoning. Do you really think the laid off people are the ones that had this air of moral superiority? No, the “get what you vote for” crowd doesn’t suffer for the consequences of their actions. This is not electoral justice…it’s democracy of two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

“I predicted that the state’s move would make many products, including bacon, more expensive and harder to obtain.”

Which of course was the green socialist plan to begin with. Just like the nationwide fuel shortages and pricing.

Force feeding greeny stuff to morons who keep voting with their emotions rather than their heads.

Correction: Smithville was not the leading employer in Vernon. That would be the board of education.

Stifling economic activity, killing jobs and increasing commodity prices — this is what the vile, dumb-as-rocks, fiscally illiterate, neo-communist Dumb-o-crats excel at.

WOW – what an OPPORTUNITY for the LEFT!! YES – don’t you think that all the virtuous LEFTIST will be LINED UP just foaming at the mouth to get in on all the pig action!! See – THIS is the RESULT of know nothing LEFTISTS!! The smaller birthing areas were to PROTECT the BABY PIGS, but knowing how LITTLE VALUE the LEFT places on BABIES, it’s understandable! Why doesn’t SOROS with his BILLIONS jump in to rescue the WORKERS and provide the BACON, RIbs, and pork that the LEFT needs. Oh wait, I SEE the ISSUE now!!! Is it because PORK IS THE OTHER WHITE MEAT???

There were seven packing houses in Vernon back when I worked there. It’ll be interesting to see how many remain once this all shakes out.

Antifundamentalist | June 16, 2022 at 10:08 am

Food shortages in America caused by Chinese-Owned companies closing up shop? Who could have seen that coming?

Through out history, starvation is largely a function of govt making bad decisions.
As we are learning from being under the thumb of team Biden, all the shortages we are experiencing, are a result of Government intentional actions.
Our govt is the laboratory of real life Peter Principle in action. For decades the govt has promoted people past their competency, at all levels.

This is the result.