Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act

I have a small pasture in front of my home. It is maybe an acre and a half in size. I irrigate it with sprinklers, and I put two or three cows on it. Late in the Fall I like to take one cow to the butcher, and the rest to the sale.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act (“FMIA”) is federal law that ensures that meat and meat products are slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions. The law was enacted in part in 1907 as a response to Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungel, an exposé of the Chicago meat packing industry. The FMIA requires the inspection of livestock before slaughter, and an inspection of every carcass following slaughter. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts ongoing monitoring and inspection of slaughtering and inspection facilities. Meat processing facilities and slaughter houses are required to comply with standards established by the USDA for the sanitary processing of meat.

The FMIA further has requirements for labeling and marking meats and prohibits labeling that is false or misleading.

Nothwithstanding the requirements of the FMIA, there is an exception for the slaughtering by any person of animals of his or her own raising where the meat and meat products are to be used exclusively for use by him or by members of his household and and nonpaying guests and employees. The same exception applies for a person or company that does custom slaughtering for the owners of cattle, sheep, wine or goats delivered by the owner for slaughter, provided the custom operator plainly marks all such meats “Not for Sale,” and the establishment conducting the custom operation is maintained and operated in a sanitary manner.

Congress passed the FMIA to assure that meat and meat products sold in our grocery stores are safe and properly marked, labeld and packaged. Notwithstanding, it is legal to raise and have custom butchered your own beef.

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