Massachusetts Delays Enforcement of Question 3 Pork Restrictions

On August 11th, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and a coalition of restaurant trade associations and National Pork Producers Council entered a joint motion to stay the enforcement of Massachusetts’ Question 3 regulations pertaining to pork sales in the state (330 CMR 35). The stay will delay the enforcement of Massachusetts’ pork sale restrictions (but not restrictions on egg or veal sales) pending the resolution of Supreme Court challenge to similar California legislation in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross.


Massachusetts’ Department of Agricultural Resources promulgated several restrictions on pork sales to implement a 2016 law passed by ballot initiative, Question 3. Question 3 instituted several animal new welfare standards for swine, laying hens, and veal calves. Notably, the legislation not only applied to animals raised within Massachusetts, but also to eggs, pork, and veal raised outside the state. Massachusetts’ regulations require that uncooked “whole pork meat,” including bacon, ham, chops, and ground pork (but not sausage) sold in the state (either to consumers, retailers, restaurants, or distributors) could not be derived from hogs or the direct offspring of hogs that had been confined in housing that did not meet Massachusetts standards.


Massachusetts planned to begin enforcement of its Question 3 regulations beginning August 15, 2022. The timeline for implementation posed numerous challenges for pork producers, distributors, and retailers. Massachusetts did not publish its regulations until June 10, 2022 and began publishing clarifying guidance in July 2022. Earlier this month, the coalition of restaurants and NPPC sought to enjoin Massachusetts from enforcing its regulations in Massachusetts Restaurant Ass’n v. Healy (22-cv-11245, D. Mass.) on dormant Commerce Clause grounds.


The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge the constitutionality of California’s restrictions on pork sales this fall in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross (Docket No. 21-468). Like Massachusetts’ law, California’s regulations implement a 2018 ballot initiative (Proposition 12) that would restrict the sale of pork raised outside of California. The outcome of the NPPC case will likely clarify the extent of a states’ authority to impose restrictions on out-of-state businesses that sell products in the state.


A copy of the Joint Motion to Stay is available here.


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