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All food sold in the U.S. must meet basic health and safety standards. This typically includes regulation and inspection of the facility where the food is processed or the food products are produced. All meat produced in one state but sold in another must be inspected at a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified meat-processing plant. Meat sold within the state in which it is produced is regulated at the state level, and, with some exceptions, is inspected at state-certified meat processing facilities.
Decide whether your meat processing facility is going to sell meat in other states -- interstate commerce -- or only within your state. Contact the USDA and your state agriculture/food safety agency for the appropriate documents to get the certification process started if you are planning interstate commerce. You will not need USDA certification if you are only selling to local businesses.
Confirm that all of the equipment in your facility is designed to the specifications of the USDA. This means making sure your equipment is on the Approved Equipment List produced by the USDA. Some states also require meat-processing facilities to use USDA-approved equipment for state certification.
Undertake a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point analysis and policy statement if you are planning to become USDA certified. Even if you are only planning to get a state certification, you still need to learn about the health and safety requirements for meat handlers in your state and confirm that your facility is in compliance.
Pass your USDA or state agriculture/food safety agency facility inspection. It can take several months to complete the USDA certification process and schedule your facility inspection, but the state certification process can be more expeditious. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Meat and Poultry Inspection Division, for example, will schedule a facility inspection within one week of contacting the office.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Grading, Certification, and Verification -- Meat Certification Services
- University of California: Selling Meat and Meat Products
- North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Meat Handlers
- North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: How to Become a Meat and Poultry Handler
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: HACCP