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Massachusetts sued over pork

Raising the specter of breakfasts without bacon and festival sausage stands without sausage across much of New England, trade groups representing restaurant owners across all of New England save Connecticut and the National Pork Producers Council yesterday sued the state over regulations, set to go into effect in less than two weeks, that would require pork sold, or even trans-shipped through, Massachusetts to come only from what the state considers humanely raised pigs.

Part of the problem, the trade groups say, is that even though the regulations are based on a 2016 referendum approved by voters, specific pig regulations kept getting delayed until the legislature voted last December to let the state Department of Agriculture set rules barring pork from any sow "prevented from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely" and the final rules weren't published to give pig farmers enough time to comply, even if they wanted to.

But in their suit, filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, the groups also say the law is unconstitutional because it applies even to pigs raised outside of Massachusetts - and to pork products shipped to warehouses here for distribution to most of the rest of New England, and that's a squealing big violation of the commerce clause prohibition on states interfering in interstate commerce:

Massachusetts has provided no notice to businesses and consumers in New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont who could wake up in a matter of weeks to discover that the bacon they enjoy at breakfast has been taken off the market by Massachusetts voters and regulators.

The suit notes that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a similar case against a similar law in California, which, like Massachusetts, imports most of its pork from other states, with arguments in that case set for Oct. 11.

"Massachusetts has no pork industry to speak of," unless you include a small number of "artisanal" farmers who sell their wares directly to consumers, the groups say, adding that the Midwestern and North Carolina farms that raise most of the pigs from which we get our pork know better than Massachusetts consumers that "the smaller individual pens" in which sows are kept are actually better for the animals' health and welfare, in part because it keeps them from getting into wound-causing fights due to "aggression" and because the individualized little pens make it easier for pregnant pigs to be fed and cared for.

Also, complying with the Massachusetts rules would proved expensive and:

Even if a farm did renovate in an effort to comply with the Pork Rules, the complex pork supply chain is unequipped to differentiate between compliant and non-compliant hogs alive today.

And that's all before millions of pigs are transported to slaughterhouses, each of which takes in pigs from hundreds of farms across thousands of acres and which then sends all those pigs down a single killing line.

Very few pork slaughter facilities in the United States have more than one production line, so pigs from all over a region end up funneled through that one line, becoming indistinguishable.

After the pork is processed, it is packaged, labelled, and stored at the processing facility, and then shipped to one or more distributor.

There could be many different distributors, wholesalers, resellers, or others who trade these commodity products and take possession and control of any one cut of pork during its journey from the plant to the dinner plate. ...

Accordingly, compliance with the Pork Rules is not merely a matter of changing the size of the pens, it is the far more complex task of taking a supply chain developed to create and deliver a consistent commodity and reconfiguring it to differentiate Massachusetts meat at each step of way.

The lawsuit says California has yet to figure it all out and so its law is not yet actually in effect.

The groups are asking a judge for a temporary injunction to keep the Massachusetts rules from going into effect on Aug. 15 and then a more permanent ban after that.

PDF icon Complete complaint251.57 KB

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Let the pigs out of their pens and graze a bit.

Honestly, how hard is it for these farms to comply with letting the pigs outside for a little bit? Like I'm supposed to have sympathy because a multibillion dollar industry that is massively subsidized by taxpayers can't be bothered to treat the animals in their care with a shred of dignity. Screw that.


Well, we used to have a considerable pork industry. John P. Squire & Co. was one of the biggest pork producers in the country. Their pig farms were along what is now Squire Road in Revere, and their processing plant was along Gore and Medford Streets at the Cambridge-Somerville line. It was later acquired by Swift & Co., of Chicago, which kept operating the Cambridge plant until the 1950s. The main plant, where the Twin City Plaza strip mall is today, burned in 1963, and another big building burned in 1978. One smaller building still survives on Medford Street, near Cambridge line.



If your business can’t exist without being cruel and inhumane to living creatures you don’t deserve a business.


"You didn't give us enough time to stop holding pigs in brutal conditions, even though we've known this was coming for at least 6 years!"

Raise and slaughter them humanely or don't do it at all.




Next prisoners and children will expect similar treatment.


…. to sue for the right to torture an animal that so closely resembles humans? Or any animal?
As if doing so for profit was any different than doing so for sadistic pleasure.


Tell us now about the bacon and pork you regularly consume…

Do you know how it came to be packaged for sale at your local grocery? Do you believe in the honesty of the labels? Do you believe your local farmer?

It’s all grossmeat unless you know your farmer.

If you assume you will always be able to find the pack of local meat you expect to at the majority of big or small Grocery stores or Co-ops, then it probably isn’t being raised/slaughtered in a manner you would find appropriate. The volume is simply not attainable, nor should it be.


...but you do have to do your research and find out what those certifications entail. Or you can find a reseller who you generally trust to do their homework.

For the Boston area, I would generally trust Walden Local Meat, or M F Dulock. Or, yeah, talk to the farmers.


…. came to Dewey Square once a week last year with a powerful freezer up on their pick up bed. But they decided that gas would be too much this year. Other sellers at other farm stands seem reliable. I may give them a try or just go back to meat free. Life was easier and healthier then.

It's a lot of work to go around to the markets and sell face-to-face, and if everyone who wanted meat had to talk to the farmer, they'd never have time to actually raise the animals. Having a trusted intermediary who can stake their reputation on quality and ethics and also handle delivery and such really helps.

But yeah, I don't actually eat much meat. Maybe a few pounds a year. It's harder to cook with, more fraught, higher environmental impact... so it's something we really only do as a special treat.

(Salami is actually a really good choice. I have a thin slice every few days and it lasts forever, but it's so strongly flavored that I don't feel the need to eat more than that.)

That doesn't mean I don't want a regulation that says we can only buy electric cars starting in 2030.

If we put in place the kinds of laws that prevent cruelty, wastage, absurd at-scale farming practices, and then enforce those regulations strongly enough that no one would deem it profitable to violate them, then I don't need to know how it came to be packaged, etc. Because I'd be able to trust the system to raise, slaughter, and package the meat according to the most ethically way possible by law.

The idea that that's not "attainable" at scale is bullshit. It's attainable if that's what we put our minds to. And if the problem is that we need more pig farmers with smaller farms than one pig farmer with disgusting farm practices, then I hope we teach more people how to raise pigs.

This is all about what we choose to incentivize, revolutionize, and regulate. We've let ourselves get lazy, weak, and sloppy because it has been easy and cheap to do so, not because it's been the best way forwards for anyone involved other than the profiteers.

I could see the parts of the law banning transit through MA of non-compliant pork that never leaves the refrigerator car getting struck down for Commerce Clause reasons, but the rest of the lawsuit is just silly. States are allowed to impose regulations that effectively make specific products unavailable. "But your honor, complying would be really hard!" is both ridiculous and false; pork companies can comply with the law for very little cost by avoiding the MA market entirely, which would be fine with me!