Meat Processors: Federal, State and Custom

8 Jul

A customer gives us some money, we give the customer some bacon.
Sounds good, no?

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Mmmmmm. Bacon.

If only it were that easy.

To sell meat in the state of Minnesota (and most other states for that matter) the meat has to be processed at an inspected processor. In Minnesota, there are 3 different “levels” of processors, each with attendant restrictions on the resulting meat.

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The top tier processors are the federally-inspected USDA processors. These plants are inspected by the USDA, and that inspector is there watching every animal that moves through the facility.

If the label bears the little circular USDA stamp, it can be sold to anyone anywhere.  USDA inspection is required for any meat that’s moving across state lines or out of the country.

The second tier consists of state-inspected “equal-to” processors.  These facilities are inspected in much the same manner, but instead of a USDA inspector, they have an inspector from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

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The label from a “equal-to” facility will have the Minnesota inspection stamp. State inspected meat can be sold to consumers, restaurants or schools, but can’t be sold outside the state of Minnesota.

The third tier of meat processors are the “Custom exempt” processors.  Custom processors are inspected by the state, but don’t have an inspector there every day watching every animal like a state or USDA inspected processor would have.

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Custom processed meat is typically packaged in white butcher paper, and will bear a “Not for Sale” stamp. According to MDA rules this meat can not be sold, and can only be consumed by the owner, the owners family and non-paying guests. If you buy meat in bulk, like a whole, half or quarter of a cow, or a whole or half hog, then this is how your meat will be packaged unless you specify otherwise.

You see, when you buy half of a cow, we are technically selling you half of a living cow, then transporting that cow to the processor for you. You then pay the processor to cut & wrap the meat from your cow. This keeps everything nice and legal.
This doesn’t mean that you should worry about the safety meat that is bought in bulk. On the contrary, the processors we use are all USDA inspected, even though they may package in butcher paper with the “Not for Sale” stamp. We pay extra for the cryovac packaging and retail labels, an expense you may not want for your bulk order.

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