Direct marketing of locally produced meats offers opportunity for livestock producers

Understanding meat inspection is important to comply with regulations

Consumer demand for locally produced meat offers an opportunity for livestock producers to capture a greater portion of the value of their product through direct marketing. Meat processing and inspection is an important step in marketing a safe product.

Livestock producers wishing to sell meat should have a good understanding of meat inspection. In an effort to provide more detailed information on the topic, MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio have worked together to publish Opportunities in Meat Marketing, Meat Inspection – Extension Bulletin E3114. This informative bulletin is the first in a three-part series designed to assist producers in direct meat marketing.

Meat inspection is regulated by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). There are three types of meat inspection; federal, state, and custom exempt. Michigan is one of 23 states in the country that does not have a state inspection program. In Michigan, federal inspection or custom-exempt inspection are the only options available for slaughtering of livestock.

Federal meat inspection is a service provided to meat plants that meet the comprehensive regulatory criteria. Meat is inspected throughout slaughter and processing. Federal inspection is required for sale of meat either directly to consumers or wholesale to restaurants, institutions or retail stores. Some processors within Michigan have retail exempt status and can sell meat directly to consumers without USDA inspection. These special exemptions apply only to processors selling directly to consumers and are not available to livestock producers. 

Custom-exempt plants also fall under USDA-FSIS jurisdiction and must also adhere to a prescribed set of regulations. These plants are inspected randomly, usually on an annual basis. Meat that is processed under custom exempt status must be used by the owner of the live animal, members of the owner’s family, or non-paying guests of the owner or employees of the owner. The processed meat cannot be sold or donated.

The Michigan State University Product Center Food-Ag-Bio provides business and marketing assistance to entrepreneurs with businesses in food, agriculture, natural resources or bio-processing. Innovation counselors are located across the state in local MSU Extension offices to provide this assistance.

Did you find this article useful?