Promoting common-sense policies for diversified food systems
Why is it so hard to find locally grown meats?
Even as the local and sustainable food movement has grown by leaps and bounds, it is often hard to find good quality meat from local farmers.
One of the main reasons is the lack of local processing facilities, a vital step in the process of getting from farm to plate. USDA regulations are designed for massive, industrial-scale facilities, making it difficult or sometimes even impossible for small-scale facilities to comply. And federal law requires that “state inspected” facilities use the exact same USDA standards, leaving no flexibility for states to work with.
This problem could become even worse – or better – depending on what laws and regulations change in the coming year. You have two opportunities to help stop bad changes and promote good ones, now.
If you recall from our recent alert, USDA’s FSIS is proposing changes to how frequently it samples ground beef for salmonella. But this is not to stop the meat from entering the food supply based on the risk posed. Instead, it’s testing for even the tiniest traces of salmonella to serve as a “double check” on the processor’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).
If any contamination is found, the agency comes back with demands that the processor change its HACCP. Large processors can weather these issues easily, with their teams of lawyers and consultants – but small processors are often driven out of business, even when there is no real health risk.
The PRIME Act now has 22 co-sponsors! This bill repeals the federal ban on the sale of meat from what are known as “custom slaughterhouses.” These are facilities that meet state regulations, but that do not meet the federal requirements for an “inspected facility,” which include not only standards for the facility and its operations, but the requirement that an inspector be on site at the time the animals are processed.
Custom slaughterhouses are already legally operating in numerous states, but the meat from the animals can only go back to the person who owned the animal when it entered the slaughterhouse – it cannot be sold. So, a farmer who wants to sell his or her beef, lamb, goat, or pork to consumers at a local farmers’ market or other local outlet cannot use a custom slaughterhouse. Instead, the farmer has to haul their animals – at times over long distances – to a USDA- or state-inspected facility.
The PRIME Act returns control to the states to address the issue of meat processing. States would be able to permit producers to sell meat processed at a custom slaughterhouse direct to consumers or wholesale within the state. States could choose to impose whatever conditions or limitations that best suited their agricultural, food system, and social conditions.
The PRIME Act is a win-win-win by:
· Reducing regulatory burdens on small businesses.
· Increasing consumers’ access to locally raised meats.
· Reducing transportation miles and greenhouse gases.
· Improving farmers’ incomes and opportunities.
· Reducing stress on animals that comes from hauling over long miles.
· Reducing federal regulatory overreach and supporting state-level control.
The bi-partisan support for the bill is great, but we need a much longer list of sponsors if we want a chance at pushing the bill forward in 2020. Will you help?