October 24, 2014

Small Meat Processors Find Bigger Markets Through USDA Program

Up until now, small, state-inspected meat and poultry processors could only sell products within their state. But through a new program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) they are now allowed to ship their products across state lines.

Ohio is the first state to participate in the USDA’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program which allows meat and poultry processors with fewer than 25 employees to sell their products in other states. The products will be subject to the same regulatory sampling programs as those established in the federal inspection program.

“Expanding market opportunities for meat from local processors makes these small businesses more viable, while also ensuring that participating establishments have robust food safety systems in place to produce safe food for consumers,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, said in a statement.

The 2008 Farm Bill created the Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program and in 2011 the USDA approved regulations allowing state employees to administer federal regulations and and inspections.

“Before this agreement was finalized, small and specialty meat processors in Ohio who are inspected daily by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) were prohibited from selling their products over state lines.  You had to be inspected by the federal government to do that despite the fact that our state inspection program has been rated as “at least equal to” the federal program since 1969. It just didn’t make sense,” Ohio Agriculture Director David Daniels, said in a statement.

Great Lakes Smoked Meats of Lorain, Ohio, is one of the companies participating in the program. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this,”  Ben Fligner, the company’s president said in a statement. “We’ve been contacted by specialty grocery stores in other states asking to stock our products and I haven’t been able to do business with them until now.  This is huge for our company and will allow us to grow and to add jobs.”

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