Does custom processed meat need mark of inspection?

Producer Question from 2010

Q:  We are a state-inspected meat processing plant. We are told by the inspectors that freezer beef that we custom butcher and process does not need the mark of inspection, even though these people are buying the beef from the farmers and they are not the sole owner until the meat is processed. Is what the inspectors told us correct? (February 8, 2010)

A:  Within the Federal Meat Inspection Regulations exemptions from inspection are allowed. The Exemption for Custom Slaughter is defined in the US Code of Federal Regulations 9 CFR 303.1 (2) as:

(2) The custom slaughter by any person of cattle, sheep, swine, or goats delivered by the owner thereof for such slaughter, and the preparation by such slaughterer and transportation in commerce of the carcasses, parts thereof, meat and meat food products of such livestock, exclusively for use, in the household of such owner, by him and members of his household and his nonpaying guests and employees; nor to the custom preparation by any person of carcasses, parts thereof, meat or meat food products derived from the slaughter by any individual of cattle, sheep, swine, or goats of his own raising or from game animals, delivered by the owner thereof for such custom preparation, and transportation in commerce of such custom prepared articles, exclusively for use in the household of such owner, by him and members of his household and his nonpaying guests and employees:

You may want to check with your state inspection regulations for custom slaughter and processing, however, the Federal code should be the same for State Inspected Facilities. The code indicates that you can slaughter as custom exempt if it is delivered to you by the owner of the animal. In addition, the meat processed from this animal is used by the owner and members of his family or non-paying guests. The key is that ownership of the animal is established before the animal is delivered for slaughter. This rule on ownership is loosely interpreted to allow more than one owner. Therefore, a beef can divided into, a half or quarter of beef depending on ownership prior to slaughter.

As a processor, the easy way to avoid any problems is to have the slaughter and processing inspected. While inspected slaughter has requirements for HACCP and SSOP's, the custom slaughter of beef has requirements such as separation of the carcasses from inspected carcasses and labeling of the meat packages as "Not for Sale". Unless you have additional costs for inspection that you charge customers, management of your operation is easier if all slaughter and processing is inspected.

Dr. Dennis BursonDr. Dennis Burson
Animal Science
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE