Written collaboratively by Amanda Blair, Tammy Anderson and Mendel Miller.
Market volatility and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have left many producers searching for alternative strategies to market their livestock.
Many have inquired about selling directly to consumers, which has generated many questions about meat inspection rules and regulations. If you are considering marketing your animals directly to consumers it is important to understand the inspection requirements for selling meat directly to consumers.
If livestock producers in South Dakota wish to sell meat, they must have their livestock slaughtered and processed with inspection at a state or federally inspected facility and must follow the associated label guidelines to market that product. Alternatively, producers can sell live animals (whole animals, halves or quarters) to a customer. The customer(s) becomes the new owner and can then have that animal processed at a “custom-exempt” facility. For example, if a rancher sells one live steer to four people, each person gets a one-fourth share of the meat. The customer(s) pay the rancher for the animal and pays the locker for the processing costs. Each package of meat will be stamped “Not For Sale” indicating it cannot be sold or donated to others.
More detailed information about each type of inspection available in South Dakota is outlined below along with links to additional resources within South Dakota.
Inspection Requirements for Meat Products
The Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 established that all meat products intended for commercial sale must be inspected and passed to ensure they are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. There are four different types of inspection a South Dakota meat processor can operate under:
1. Custom Exempt
Custom exempt facilities provide the slaughter and processing as a service to the owner of the animal and the meat products are for use by the owner’s family and their non-paying guests only. These operations are exempt from the Federal Meat Inspection Act requirements for carcass-by-carcass inspection but are reviewed periodically to verify the facility is operating in a manner that produces a safe, wholesome food product in a sanitary environment. Meat produced from a custom-exempt facility must be labeled “Not For Sale” and may not be sold or donated.
2. Federal Inspection
This inspection is conducted by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Federal meat inspection includes an ante-mortem inspection of the live animal, verification of humane handling requirements, post-mortem inspection to ensure the meat from the carcass and internal organs are fit for consumption, inspection of the facilities and equipment to ensure sanitary conditions, review of Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and label approval.
3. State Inspection
This inspection is conducted by the South Dakota Animal Industry Board (SDAIB). State inspection is required by law to be “at least equal to” federal inspection in regard to regulatory rigor (see guidelines in #2 above). However, state inspected meat from amenable species (beef, pork, lamb, goat) can only be sold and distributed within the state. Meat from state inspected non-amenable species (bison, elk, deer, etc.) may move across state lines.
Note: In South Dakota all poultry products are Federally inspected and therefore regulated by FSIS.
4. Retail/Restaurant/Central Kitchen Exemption
Retail establishments are exempt from inspection during processing, cooking or smoking, but may only use meat products that have been inspected and passed by state or federal inspection. Safe handling labels are required for raw products. Establishments are also reviewed periodically to verify the facility is operating in a manner that produces a safe, wholesome food product in a sanitary environment.
What About Local Meats?
State and Federal regulations require that meat sold locally to a restaurant, direct to consumers at farmer’s markets or other local venues must be processed with either Federal or State Inspection. Inspected products can be sold by half carcasses, quarter carcasses, or as individual retail packages.
Differences Between State and Federal Inspection in South Dakota
Producers interested in selling meat should locate a Federal or State Inspected Facility to have their product processed. Some differences between State Inspected Facilities and Federally Inspected Facilities include:
State Inspected Facilities
- May slaughter and process “livestock,” cattle, bison, sheep, swine, goats, reindeer, elk, deer, and antelope.
- If an owner would like to have a species processed and inspected at the state level that is not listed, he or she can talk with the SD Animal Industry Board. If approved, the state will process and inspect additional species not listed above.
- State inspected meat products from federally amenable species (cattle, sheep, swine, and goats) may be sold within the state.
- State inspected meat products from non-amenable species (reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, or bison) may be sold outside of state lines.
Federally Inspected Facilities
- May slaughter and process cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and poultry.
- May charge a per hour fee for processing exotic species, including reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, water buffalo or bison.
- All federally inspected meat products may be sold across state lines.
Inspected meat must remain in the original package with a label and not be processed, resorted, re-handled or separated into smaller units outside an establishment licensed for inspection or retail. Meat that is Federally or State inspected and sold at grocery or convenience stores, online or through farmer’s markets must follow important labeling guidelines.
State Inspected Facility
Product labels for all amenable species processed at a state inspected facility are property of the inspection facility and must be approved by the South Dakota Animal Industry Board prior to the product being labeled and sold; this includes marketing claims, which must be pre-approved on the labels.
Federally Inspected Facility
Product labels from a federally inspected plant are approved by the USDA.
The following list includes the information that should appear on the label of inspected product:
- USDA or South Dakota inspection mark (Figure 1)
- Common name of the product (species, wholesale and retail cut name e.g. rib eye steak)
- Ingredient Statement (for multi-ingredient products)
- Handling Statement (i.e. Keep Refrigerated)
- Net weight
- Name and address of the processor
- Safe handling instructions
- Nutritional Facts (if applicable)
For information on slaughter, processing and selling of meat products contact:
- South Dakota Animal Industry Board
411 S. Fort Street
Pierre, SD 57501
Phone: 605-773-3321 or 605-773-5802
Resources for locating a meat processing facility:
- Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory, USDA FSIS.
- A directory of federally inspected processing facilities. The directory is updated monthly by the FSIS.
- The excel version of the directory can be sorted by state, city and zip code.
- Meat Inspection Resources, South Dakota Animal Industry Board.
- For a list of state-inspected processing facilities select “List of State Inspected Establishments.”
- For a list of Custom Exempt facilities select “List of Customer Exempt Establishments.”