State Meat Inspection Programs

Date: 21 Nov 2008 | posted in: agriculture | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In 1967, the Wholesome Meat Inspection Act and the Wholesome Poultry Products Act authorized states with inspection programs certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “at least equal to” the federal program to inspect meat and poultry products for distribution within a state’s borders. An adversarial relationship between state programs and the USDA and little interest in direct marketing caused many of the programs to be dropped. Today, meat producers interests in niche markets and marketing have resulted in 25 state meat inspection programs being reinstated and expanded across the country. Several more states are considering bills to establish similar programs. The state programs are able to provide more technical support and guidance than the USDA, which now caters almost exclusively to large processors.

Anexample of such a program is Minnesota’s State Meat Inspection Program created by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in November 1998. It is designed to make it easier for the state’s meat producers to sell their homegrown beef, pork and poultry directly to consumers in state. The MN program was allocated $350K under the 1998 SF. 3353 Omnibus appropriations bill and codified in the 1998 Chapter 401 Section 6 MN Session Laws. Prior to the program, regulations mandated that meat could only be handled by 1)a USDA certified plant before sale to markets or 2)a custom meat handler to personal consumption. The new program certifies smaller meat processors to handle meat for sale instate. By taking their livestock to smaller processors, farmers receive more individualized service and retain ownership of the meat. Many choose to sell the meat directly to consumers, while others sell through local grocery stores. Minnesota currently has approximately 100 slaughter and processing facilities, of which half are smaller, non-USDA certified plants. In January 1999, only one meat processor had volunteered to register with the MDA program and the state was inspecting 100 lbs. of meat per month. Today the program has 20 plants enrolled, representing a monthly processing volume of 125,000 lbs. of meat. As a result of the program 10 new meat facilities have been built and many more have been remodeled.

Now the challenge lies in allowing state inspected meat to cross state lines (currently prohibited by federal law). Currently, plants under state inspection must be equal to the USDA standards but can only sell their products intrastate. A bill introduced by Senator Daschle (New Markets for State Inspected Meat Act of 1999 – S.1988) would have allowed interstate marketing. Hearings were held in Senate agriculture committee in April 2000.

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