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DEAR NEW FARM:
Regarding the article: Keeping
it close to home: Allowing on-farm slaughter for buyers By
Sandra K. Miller, I am confused about the laws regarding
on-farm slaughter. We just released a guide called "Frequently
Asked Questions about Processing and Marketing Beef, Pork,
Lamb and Goat Meats In North Carolina and South Carolina."
The guide was reviewed by The Meat and Poultry Inspector's
Office for both North Carolina and South Carolina.
Even if slaughter can occur on the farm of the seller by
the customers who paid for the animals in Pennsylvania, the
North Carolina and South Carolina agencies do not permit this.
Readers should be aware that they should look into the laws
of their own state. A page in that guide reads as follows:
“On-farm Animal Slaughter and Processing /Can I slaughter
my animals myself?” Yes, you can slaughter animals that
you have raised on your farm, as long as the meat is for your
family’s own personal use or the use of non-paying guests.
You may not sell meat from animals you have slaughtered on
your farm. You must use a state- or federally-inspected slaughter
facility to sell meats.
You may sell meats from rabbits or poultry that you have
slaughtered, processed, packaged and labeled yourself. There
are specific rules and guidelines that need to be followed
in order to process and sell your own poultry. (This is covered
in page 29 of our guide under “Poultry Resources”.)
Can I sell a live animal to a customer and slaughter “their
animal” myself as a service on my farm? No! Some farmers
have attempted to go around laws about selling meats from
animals they have slaughtered themselves by “selling
a customer a live animal” and then slaughtering that
animal “as a service.” If you slaughter animals
for other individuals on your property, without first building
an inspected slaughter facility, you are in violation of state
and federal meat inspection laws. Not only is this against
the law, it can put your farm and livelihood at risk. Compliance
officers in both NC and SC have been cracking down on these
unlawful practices, and individuals found in violation could
be assessed a civil money penalty or prosecuted. You are also
putting yourself and your customer at risk.
If a customer gets sick, you could be held responsible. It
is not worth this risk. Only slaughter animals for your own
personal use. Always use a state- or federally-inspected facility
to slaughter and process meats you sell to the general public.
If they want to have the animal slaughtered and/or processed
for their personal use, they must take it to a custom slaughtering
facility or a state- or federally-inspected slaughter facility
that conducts custom slaughter. The animal will be slaughtered,
processed to their specifications, and marked and labeled
as “Not for sale.” Have the animal leave your
Appalachia-Southeastern Region Program Manager
Heifer International, North Carolina
Sandra K: Miller responds:
Last week I spoke at North Carolina State's Small Farm Conference
and was informed of their prohibition of on-farm slaughter
by ethnic customers. Yes, I recognize that many farmers try
to get around the law with the selling of a live animal and
then butchering as a "service.” I am completely
against these practices as I am with "buying clubs"
for raw milk or the selling of "pet food"-only products.
My article specifically addresses the issue for people who
want to slaughter for ethnic and religious purposes. Laws
prohibiting people from slaughtering live animals that they
have purchased are discriminatory, at best. While in North
Carolina, I went to a Hispanic restaurant and market to talk
to people about how they deal with such prohibitive laws.
Their responses included practices such as picking up a live
animal, killing and bleeding it on a rural road and then sneaking
it home to complete the butchering process, usually after
dark or in a garage, or taking the animal to a secluded area
in which to kill and clean the carcass.
North Carolina is a huge hunting state (which I took note
of as I was visiting during deer and bear season). Why is
it legal for a hunter to shoot and butcher a deer (or turkey,
pheasant, quail, duck, etc.) for their personal consumption
on someone else's property, but it is illegal when it comes
to domestic small ruminants or fowl?
You are indeed right when you see the trend for the feds
to "turn the screws" on small farmers/producers,
however, I also see it as blatant harassment of minorities.
It's perfectly legal for a "white bread" American
to kill a deer, field dress it leaving the offal in the open,
drag the carcass (sometimes miles) back to a vehicle where
it is driven around (sometimes for hours) prior to being hung,
cut up, wrapped, cooled, etc. But when a Muslim or a Mexican
purchases a live goat or lamb direct from a farmer, they are
not allowed to humanely dispatch, quickly clean (with water)
the carcass, safely dispose of the offal and put the carcass
on ice immediately so it can be transported home, often to
be cooked and eaten within a day or two.
While Southern states welcome cheap South American labor,
they continue in their deeply-rooted discrimination against
minorities by passing laws that prevent ethnically diverse
groups from maintaining their cultural identity or practicing
Further adding to the irony of this is the response from
Heifer International. It seems to me that they've abandoned
their roots in promoting sustainable agriculture and helping
impoverished people in lieu of hopping in bed with the feds.
How sustainable is it for a small farmer to spend a quarter
million dollars on a USDA federal/state inspected facility
that in the end would not allow their customers to kill/slaughter
their own animals? It's stupidity! Is the livestock that Heifer
International provides to ethnic people outside of the US
being slaughtered in a government-run facility?
I took four veal calves to a USDA facility last week, and
I had to go round and round with them on just keeping the
sweetbreads! That wasn't on their approved list of organ meat
items they were allowed to give back to the customer. The
butcher will save pigs' feet but not calves'
feet. We, as Americans, are a wasteful society. Ethnic customers
rarely leave much waste—less than a 5-gallon bucket
for goats. They strip out the stomach and intestines, along
with taking the head (including the brains). African customers
will even save the blood! Sheep lungs are an integral part
of Greek Kokoreisi, which is basically a kabob of internal
organs with the intestines wrapped around the outside and
roasted over a spit. Kanes' Barbeque, one of the leading makers
of spit roasters for Greek and other ethnic communities, makes
a special attachment for this delicacy. But try to get lungs
from a USDA butcher. The Asians eat bull penis or chicken/turkey
feet soup, but you won't see any of those at your local butcher
shop. And don't even get me started on horse meat.
Ethnic customers are demanding access to their traditional
foods, and the USDA is limiting their choices due to its discriminatory
and arcane rules. Our country has only been around a few hundred
years, the USDA far less, but people have been slaughtering
their own animals for thousands of years. To deny a human
being access to food is a travesty.
Welcome to America, thanks for working for minimum wage or
less. Oh, by the way, you can only eat what we allow you to
Sandra K. Miller