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Regulatory Requirements for Selling Meat at Farmers Markets

Written collaboratively by Curtis Braun, Heidi Carroll, Keith Underwood (Associate Professor, SDSU), and Rory Fischer (DVM, South Dakota Animal Industry Board).


Producers selling meat raised on their farm at a farmers market or other venue need to be in compliance with a number of state and federal regulations. The Federal Meat Inspection Act regulates meat processing in the US and compliance is monitored by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). The South Dakota Animal Industry Board (SDAIB) has authority over red meat produced and sold within the state of South Dakota. The following is relevant to meats including, but not limited to, beef, bison, goat, lamb, pork, emu meat, ostrich meat, and venison (captive cervidae, eg. deer, reindeer, elk, and antelope).


According to USDA FSIS regulations, meat sold direct to consumers at farmers markets or other local venue must be processed at either a Federal or State Inspected processing facility. Inspected products can be sold by half carcasses, quarter carcasses, or as individual retail cuts.

Any products processed under the custom-exempt status are NOT State or Federally Inspected, therefore cannot be resold. Custom-exempt products are for use by a person’s family and their guests only. Often, meat that is processed as custom-exempt bears the marking or label, “not for sale.”

Producers interested in selling meat locally, should seek out a Federal or State Inspected Facility to have their meat processed. The differences in State Inspected Facilities and Federally Inspected Facilities are explained below.

 State Inspected Facilities

  • May slaughter and process “livestock,” cattle, bison, sheep, swine, goats, equine, ratites (emu/ ostrich), 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 SDAIB. If approved, the state will process and inspect additional species not listed above.
  • State inspected meat products from “livestock,” cattle, sheep, swine, goats, equine, and ratites (emu/ostrich) may not be sold or shipped outside of state lines.
  • State inspected meat products from animals not amenable to the Federal Meat Inspection Act, including reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, or bison may be sold and shipped outside of state lines.
  • The South Dakota Meat Inspection program applies only to red meats. Poultry inspection in South Dakota is under the authority of USDA/ APHIS.

Federal Inspected Facilities

  • May slaughter and process “livestock,” cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules or other equines, including their carcasses and parts.
  • Charge a per hour fee for processing exotic species. According to FSIS at the federal level, exotic species include reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, water buffalo or bison.
  • After being federally inspected, all meat products may be sold outside of state lines.

Locating a Meat Processing Facility

  • Federally inspected processing facility list: Visit the USDA Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory website. This directory is updated monthly by the FSIS. The (Excel) version of the directory can be downloaded and sorted by state, city and zip code.
  • State inspected processing facility list: Visit South Dakota Animal Industry Board Meat Inspection website. Select “List of State Inspected Establishments.”
  • Custom exempt processing facility list: Visit South Dakota Animal Industry Board Meat Inspection website. Select “List of Customer Exempt Establishments.”


Meat must remain in the original package (from the inspected facility) and not be processed, resorted, re- handled or separated into smaller units. For example, a ten-pound package of ground beef cannot be later broken into smaller packages for resale.


Meat that is Federal or State inspected and sold at farmers markets must follow important labeling guidelines. The appropriate mark of inspection, sometimes called a ‘state or federal bug,’ must appear on the label of every package of meat.

Left side: South Dakota State Inspected Seal. A black outline of the state of South Dakota with the text "Inspected & Passed No. South Dakota" inside. Right side: Two USDA Inspected Seals. The first is the USDA Inspection legend used on raw meat. It is a black circle outline with the text "U.S. Inspeced and Passed By Department of Agriculture EST. 392" inside. The second is the USDA Inspection Legend Used on processed meat. It is a black circle outline with the text " 392 U.S. INSPD & PSD" inside it.

Depending on which type of facility a producer is using, the label may need to be approved using a different process described below:

State Inspected Facility

Product labels for all amenable species (cattle, sheep, swine, goats) 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 (eg. Grass-fed, humanely raised, welfare approved), 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:

  • USDA or South Dakota inspection mark
  • Common name of the product (species, wholesale and retail cut name, e.g. beef rib eye steak)
  • Ingredient Statement (for multi-ingredient products)
  • Handling Statement (i.e. Keep Refrigerated)
  • Net weight
  • Date packaged
  • Name and address of the processor
  • Safe handling instructions
  • Nutritional Facts (if applicable)

Glossary of Terms

  • Red Meat: includes all species, excludes poultry and rabbit
  • State Bug: another name for the state mark of inspection
  • Federal Bug: another name for the federal mark of inspection


For information on slaughter, processing and selling of meat products in South Dakota contact:

South Dakota Animal Industry Board
411 S. Fort Street
Pierre, SD 57501
Phone: 605-773-3321
Fax: 605-773-5459


Related Topics

Famers Market Regulations