A Slaughterhouse Case in San Francisco?

April 7th, 2011

As you may recall, in the infamous Slaughter-House Cases, the City of New Orleans only permitted a single abattoir for the City, forcing all butchers to have their livestock slaughtered in one location. A group of butchers challenged this act, finding it violated their right to earn a living. In an odd twist, San Francisco is having a very similar problem 140 years later.

From the Times, an article titled Slaughterhouse Shortage Stunting Area’s Eat-Local Movement:

Only one slaughterhouse remains in the Bay Area, in Petaluma, and there are just a smattering of them in all of Northern California. Ranchers must often truck their grass-fed cattle hundreds of miles to the nearest plant, and they face backlogs in the busy season that can lead to waits lasting many months. This means fewer — and more expensive — local skirt steaks at the butcher shop, and more carbon with that grass-fed burger.

The slaughterhouse shortage, and associated difficulties in creating an efficient supply chain, has already kept aspiring local-beef entrepreneurs out of the business, University of California researchers say. And when the local supply of grass-fed meat gets low, out-of-region producers pick up the slack.

And why is there a shortage of slaughterhouses?

But Mr. Thiboumery is pessimistic about the chances for new facilities in California. Here, potential operators face stringent state regulations, unforgiving zoning laws and the dreaded Nimby factor.

In both New Orleans, and San Francisco, onerous government regulations limit people’s right to pursue the vocation of their choice. While New Orleans actively permitted only one Slaughterhouse to open, California’s zoning laws and state regulations effectively have the same result. We have a de jure Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company.

It’s funny how history repeats itself.