August 04, 2023

Restaurant Law Center, Four State Restaurant Associations Reach Agreement with Massachusetts AG in Pork Rule Litigation

Enforcement of rule on transshipment will pause, pending clarification; agreement also assists with supply chain product transition
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Restaurant Law Center, four state restaurant associations, the National Pork Producers Council, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office asked a federal judge to approve their settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Massachusetts Pork Rules. The agreement would end a lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, HospitalityMaine, New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association, Rhode Island Hospitality Association, the Restaurant Law Center, and the National Pork Producers Council that challenged enforcement guidelines and the underlying 2016 law defining the conditions under which eggs, veal, and pork sold in the Commonwealth must be farmed.

Under the terms of the settlement the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) will propose new regulations with two technical clarifications interpreting the Pork Rules:
  • The Pork Rules will not apply to whole pork meat that is already in the supply chain as of August 23, 2023.
  • The Pork Rules will not apply to sales of whole pork meat in Massachusetts when that meat is both farmed and sold to a consumer out-of-state—known as transshipment through Massachusetts. Whole pork meat that goes to distribution centers in Massachusetts, but is ultimately destined for restaurants in another state, will not be subject to the Pork Rules even if a sale occurs in Massachusetts as part of the supply chain. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office agreed not to enforce the transshipment portion of the Pork Rules while MDAR completes its rulemaking process.
“This settlement is a significant, positive outcome for restaurant operators, pork producers, the Restaurant Law Center, and for consumers in Massachusetts and its surrounding states, because it gives restaurant owners and their suppliers the time they need to avoid significant supply disruptions so they don’t disappoint diners,” said Angelo I. Amador, Executive Director of the Restaurant Law Center. “We appreciate the Attorney General’s willingness to work with us on a settlement that will make it easier for operators and pork producers to make the required transitions in the supply chain and for distributors not to have to change their processes for surrounding states.”

For restaurants, the transshipment issue was also the only legal matter in the Massachusetts Pork Rules not otherwise addressed by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. Thus, the agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and MDAR on transshipment resolves the one outstanding legal issue in the litigation.

“Regardless of whether some sellers could have complied with the requirements and some consumers support the spirit of the Pork Rules, the precedent of allowing a state to pick products that can be sold or consumed in another state would have had staggering national implications for the supply chain. These barriers to trade based on unique value judgments would have fragmented and hindered the growth of the national economy,” said Amador.

At the center of the settled lawsuit were guidelines related to the enforcement of Massachusetts’ 2016 Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals, which set new standards on the treatment of farm animals and the sale of animal products. The law defines how farm owners selling products in Massachusetts can confine certain animals and bans the sale of products from farms violating the law. The standards also applied to products sold by or transferred through a distributor in the state—even if the farms were out of state (which is where the vast majority of the supply for Massachusetts and the other states represented in the lawsuit comes from) and the ultimate destinations were also out-of-state restaurants.

About the Restaurant Law Center 

The Restaurant Law Center (Law Center) is an independent public policy organization affiliated with the National Restaurant Association. It was established to enhance the industry’s voice in the judicial and regulatory arena. The Law Center works to protect and advance the restaurant industry and promote pro-business laws and regulations that allow restaurants to continue to grow, create jobs and contribute to a robust American economy. Find more information at