Laws on Home Poultry Processing

Under federal law, there is no inspection if you process fewer than 20,000 chickens (or 5,000 turkeys) per year (Poultry Products Inspection Act, Section 15), so long as the poultry is sold in your state. Local and state regulations may be more restrictive. Here follows a summary of the laws in each state, inspired by and indebted to "Legal Issues for Small-scale Poultry Processors," compiled by Janie Hipp for Heifer Project International. (It's free from NCAT/ ATTRA: 800-346-9140;

Alabama has a state law controlling meat and poultry inspection, administered by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries: Meat and Poultry Inspection; 334-2407210; fax 334-223-7352; 1445 Federal Dr., PO Box 3336, Montgomery, AL 36109-0336.

Alaska's small-scale poultry processors may need to get a state permit and comply with state laws on food safety and sanitation. For more info: Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Food Safety and Sanitation; 907-289-7501; 555 Cordova St., Anchorage, AK 99501; dec/deh.

Arizona law exempts processors of under 20,000 birds if they are processing according to recognized religious dietary laws; or for personal use; or who label the home-grown and home-butchered product with their name and address before sale to individuals or to restaurants, hotels, or boarding houses: Arizona Dept. of Ag, Meat and Poultry Inspection Branch; 602-542-6398; fax 602-5424290; 1688 W. Adams, Phoenix, AZ 85007.

Arkansas follows federal guidelines as to exemptions: Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission, No. 1 Natural Resources Dr., PO Box 1069, Little Rock, AR 72205. Or U. of Arkansas, School of Ag, PO Box 490, Pine Bluff, AR 71611.

California law lets persons who process poultry on their farm be exempt from inspection requirements so long as they sell to persons who are not going to resell the birds: Dept. of Ag, Meat & Poultry Inspection Branch; 916-6540504; fax 916-654-2608; 150 N St., Room A-125, Sacramento, CA 94814.

Colorado follows federal guidelines in exempting small-scale poultry processors from inspection, but all small-scale processors must have their processing facilities licensed by CDA: Colorado Dept. of Ag; 303-477-0086; fax 303-480-9236; 2331 W 31st Ave., Denver, CO 80211.

Connecticut's poultry processing is supervised by the Commissioner of Agriculture: 860-713-2500; 860-7132514; 785 Asylum Ave., Hartford, CT 06105.

Delaware's Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for poultry inspection. State law is based on the federal guidelines but requires a decision by the Secretary as to any particular exemption: Delaware Dept. of Ag; 302-739-4811; fax 302-697-4463; 2320 S. DuPont Hwy., Dover, DE 19901.

Florida's Animal and Animal Production Inspection and Labeling Act requires that anybody who processes birds for sale must have federal or state permits: Florida Dept. of Ag and Consumer Services, Division of Food Safety; 850488-5772; fax 850-487-0703; The Capitol, PL 10, Tallahassee, FL; 32399. Or U. of Florida, Meat Processing Center; 352-392-1921; fax 352-392-7652; PO Box 110910, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Georgia rates as a misdemeanor the offering for sale, or possessing for sale, of any poultry product made, transported, or stored under unsanitary conditions. Their definition of "unsanitary" is very broad. All poultry processing plants must have a license and keep records of all birds slaughtered on site: Georgia Dept. of Ag, Meat Inspection Division; 404-656-3673; fax 404-657-1357; 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Rm. 108, Atlanta, GA 30334.

Hawaii exempts persons who slaughter poultry for members of their own household and if the product is wholesome and sold at home direct to the consumer (not for resale). Exempt operators must register with the Board of Agriculture and get a permit for exemption (which may be refused): Hawaii Dept. of Ag; 808-973-9560; PO Box 22159, Honolulu, HI 96823-2159. Or U. of Hawaii at Manoa; 808-956-6564; fax 808-956-8663; 1920 Edmond-son Rd„ Honolulu, HI 96822.

Idaho follows the federal regulations, including exemptions for small-scale processors, and has no state inspection system for poultry processors: Idaho Dept. of Ag; 208-332-8500; fax 208-334-2170; 2270 Old Penitentiary Rd., Boise, ID 83712. Or U. of Idaho, Dept. of Animal & Veterinary Science; 208-885-7390; fax 208-885-6420; Moscow, ID 83844-2330.

Illinois producers may request, in writing, an on-farm processing exemption. If granted (two years at a time), they must keep records of the number of poultry processed per year (no more than 5,000 to keep the exemption). They must sell only from the farm (no deliveries), and must be sanitary (periodic inspections may occur): Illinois Dept. of Ag; 217-782-2172; fax 217-785-4505; State Fairgrounds, PO Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794.

Indiana's State Board of Animal Health, under the Indiana Humane Slaughter Act, is required by law to exempt a processor who would be exempt under the federal guidelines: Commissioner of Ag; 317-232-8770; fax 317-2321362; 140 W Market St., Ste. 414, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Or Indiana State Board of Animal Health, Division of Meat & Poultry; 317-227-0359; fax 317-227-0330; 805 Beach-way Dr., Ste. 50, Indianapolis, IN 46224.

Iowa's poultry inspection is under the Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau, which exempts processors who handle fewer than 1,000 birds per year and sell all products to the final consumer or use them at home: Iowa Dept. of Ag & Land Stewardship; 515-281-5322; fax 515-281-6236 (or 515-281-5597; fax 515-281-4282); Wallace Bldg., Des Moines, IA 50319.

Kansas exempts poultry producers who slaughter for home use and under certain other conditions: Kansas Dept of Ag, Meat & Poultry Inspection; 785-296-3511; fax 785296-0673; 901 S. Kansas Ave., 7th Floor, Topeka, KS 66612.

Kentucky producers must follow rules of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services: Kentucky Dept. of Ag; 502564-5126; fax 502-564-5016; Rm 188, Capitol Annex, Frankfort, KY 40601. Or Market Services Office; 502-5644696; 502-582-4291; Capital Plaza Tower, 7th Floor, 500 Mero St., Frankfort, KY 40601. Or Benjy Mikel; 859-2577550; 205 WT, Garrigus Bldg., U. of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546.

Louisiana's Dept. of Ag and Forestry's Meat and Poultry Division does inspections for operations of fewer than 20,000 birds and grants exemptions upon written request of the processor (quarterly compliance checks on persons with exemptions): Dept. of Ag <Sr Forestry; 225-922-1234; fax 225-922-1253; PO Box 631, Baton Rouge, LA 708210631.

Maine established new guidelines in 2002 that are said to be friendly to small-scale producers and processors: Commissioner of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources; 207-287-3419; fax 207-287-7548; Deering Bldg (AMHI), State House Station #28, Augusta, ME 04333. Or U. of Maine; 207-581-3449; fax 207-581-3212; 5717 Corbett Hall, Rm 303, Orono, ME 04469.

Maryland exempts from inspection any poultry processed for home use, or for sale from your home if healthy and labeled with your name and address: Maryland Dept. of Ag; 410-841-5880; fax 410-841-5914; 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401. Or U. of Maryland College of Ag; 410-651-9111; fax 410-651-9187; LES/REC Princess Anne Fac., 11990 Strickland Dr., Princess Anne, MD 21853.

Massachusetts exempts poultry processors from inspection at the discretion of its Commissioner of the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health, so long as exemptions fit under federal guidelines. Thus the processor must be selling birds he raised himself. They must be shipped in boxes that bear the grower's name, address, and the word "Exempted." He may sell to households, restaurants, hotels, and boarding houses: Mass. Dept. of Ag; 617-626-1700; fax 617-626-1850; 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02202.

Michigan uses the federal guidelines: Michigan Dept. of Ag; 517-373-1052; fax 517-335-1423 (517-373-8200; fax 517-373-6015); 611 W Ottawa, PO Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909.

Minnesota also follows federal guidelines except that direct farm sales are allowed only to households (not to hotels, restaurants, and institutions). To deliver products off farm or sell them at a farmer's market you must get a state license and comply with state inspection rules, no matter how few the birds being processed: Minnesota Dept. of Ag; 651-296-2627; fax 651-297-5637; 90 W. Plato Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55107.

Mississippi follows federal guidelines: Dept. of Ag and Commerce; 601-359-1100; fax 601-354-6290; 121 N.Jefferson St., Jackson, MS 39201. Or Meat Inspection Division; 601-359-1189; fax 601-354-6502; PO Box 1609, Jackson, MS 39215.

Missouri must exempt from inspection laws any facility that would be exempt under federal guidelines, but persons with such exemptions are subject to regular reviews. The Director of the Missouri Dept. of Ag is allowed, after giving notice, to withdraw any exemption if conditions have changed under which it was granted: Missouri Dept. of Ag; 573-751-3359; fax 573-751-1784; PO Box 630, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

Montana's Board of Livestock (under Montana's Dept. of Livestock) does poultry inspection. Persons slaughtering for home use are exempt. Custom butchers are exempt so long as the meat is kept separate from meat prepared for sale, is plainly marked "Not for Sale," and is handled in a sanitary way: Montana Dept. of Ag; 406-444-3144; fax 406444-5409; PO Box 200201, Helena, MT 59620-0201. Or Meat, Milk & Eggs Inspection Division; 406-444-5293; fax 406-444-1929; PO Box 2021001, Helena, MT 59620.

Nebraska follows the federal guidelines: Bureau of Dairies & Foods; 402-471-2536; fax 402-471-2759; PO Box 95064, Lincoln, NE 68509.

Nevada's State Board of Health does not permit the sale of uninspected poultry products. Federal exemptions don't apply here. Anybody who wants to process and sell poultry must have a state permit. The permitting process requires inspection of your place by the state Board of Health and that there be an inspector present when birds are processed. However, owner/operators may be tested and certified as inspector at their own place: Nevada State Board of Health; 775-687-6353; fax 775-687-5197; 1179 Fairview Dr., Carson City, NV 89701. Or Nevada Dept of Ag; 775-688-1182; fax 775-688-1178; 350 Capitol Hill Ave., Reno, NV 89502.

New Hampshire's policy follows the federal guidelines: New Hampshire Dept. of Ag, Markets and Food; 603271-3551; fax 603-271-1109; PO Box 2042, Concord, NH 03302-2042. Or U. of New Hampshire, Cooperative Ext. Food Safety & Nutrition; 603-862-2496; fax 603-8623758; 129 Main St., 219 Kendall Hall, Durham, NH 03824.

New Jersey allows uninspected processing of home-grown birds for home use: NJ Dept. of Ag; 609-2923976; fax 609-292-3978; PO Box 330, John Fitch Plaza, Trenton, NJ 08625. Or Rutgers U., Dept of Food Science; 732-932-9611; fax 732-932-6776; 65 Dudley Rd, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.

New Mexico does not allow any exemption from inspection for poultry slaughtered on the farm: New Mexico Livestock Board; 505-841-6161; fax 505-841-6160; 300 San Mateo NE, Ste. 1000, Albuquerque, NM 87018.

New York exempts by federal rules up to 1,000 birds per year: NY Dept. of Ag and Markets; 518-457-4188; fax 518-457-3087; 1 Winners Circle, Capitol Plaza, Albany, NY 12235. Or Cornell U., Dept. of Food Science; 607-2553262; fax 607-254-4868; 11 Stocking Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853.

North Carolina's Dept. of Ag and Consumer Services inspects poultry products. Exemptions are given for processors of less than 1,000 birds or 250 turkeys; or those operating according to religious dietary laws; or if the birds are home grown for home eating; or custom slaughter of birds intended for the customer's home use. Small growers may process and sell their home-grown healthy poultry if packaged under a label identifying the name and address of the producer. They may sell to households or distribute to restaurants, hotels, and boarding houses: Dept. of Ag and Consumer Services; 919-733-7125; fax 919-733-1141; PO Box 27647, Raleigh, NC 27611. Or Meat and Poultry Division; 919-733-4136; fax 919-715-0246.

North Dakota's Health Dept. gives no exemptions from inspection requirements for farm-slaughtered poultry: ND Dept of Health; 701-328-2213; fax 701-328-4567; 600 East Blvd., Bismarck, ND 58505-0020. Or ND State U.; 701-231-7682; fax 701-231-7590; 5727 Hultz Hall, Fargo, ND 58105.

Ohio exempts growers processing for family use, and grower/processors of fewer than 1,000 birds per year who sell to other household consumers (no resale expected). You are still subject to laws on licensing, sanitation, labeling, etc.: Ohio Dept. of Ag; 614-466-2732; fax 614-466-6124; 8995 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-3399. Or Division of Meat Inspection; 614-728-6260; fax 614-728-6434.

Oklahoma allows certain exceptions for small producers or religious processing, etc.: OK Dept. of Ag; 405-5213864; fax 405-521-0909; 2800 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. Or Meat Inspection Program; 405-521-3741; fax 405-522-0756.

Oregon follows federal guidelines. Inspection is also not applied to fryers that are sold to ultimate customers at the farm where they were produced: Oregon Dept. of Agriculture; 503-986-4552; fax 503-986-4750; 635 Capitol St. NE, Salem, OR 97310-0110. Or Oregon State U.; 541-7373414; fax 541-737-4174; Withycombe Hall 112, Corvallis, OR 97331.

Pennsylvania's Dept. of Ag and various municipal departments can enact and enforce regulations: Dept. of Ag; 717-772-2853; fax 717-772-2780; 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408. Or Bureau of Food Safety & Lab Services; 717-787-4315; fax 717-787-1873; 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17110.

Rhode Island poultry growers who do their own processing for either home use or sale must register each year with the Director of the Department of Health during the month of January. Slaughter premises must be approved by the Department, and the Director of the Department can make rules about those premises and can inspect them as he wishes: RI Dept. of Ag; 401-222-2781; fax 401-2226047; 235 Promenade St., Room 370, Providence, RI 02908-5767. Or ESN Research Center: 401-874-2972; fax 401-874-2994; 530 Liberty Lane, West Kingston, RI 02892.

South Carolina allows exemptions from getting a permit to persons who butcher according to religious dietary laws; persons processing home-grown poultry for home use or doing custom slaughter on somebody's home-grown birds for home use; persons selling to households, restaurants, hotels, or boarding houses home-grown poultry that have been raised healthy and are labeled with the grower's name and address (up to 20,000 birds or 5,000 turkeys): SC Meat & Poultry Inspection Division; 803-788-1747; fax 803-788-8114; PO Box 102406, Columbia, SC 292242406. Or Clemson U., Meat & Poultry Inspection: 803788-2260.

South Dakota's Livestock Sanitary Board runs their inspection program and allows no exemptions from inspection: SD Dept. of Ag; 605-773-3375; fax 605-773-5926; 523 E. Capitol, Pierre, SD 57501-3182. Or SD Animal Industry Board; 605-773-3321; fax 605-773-5459; 411 S. Fort St, Pierre, SD 57501.

Tennessee's Meat and Poultry Inspection Act is administered by their Dept. of Ag. Growers report that the rules are confusing, unevenly applied, and not always administered according to the written law: TN Dept of Ag, Ellington Ag Center; 615-837-5100; fax 615-837-5333; PO Box 40627, Melrose Station, Nashville, TN 37204.

Texas accepts the federal guidelines and exempts small-scale processors from inspection. However, low-volume livestock processing establishments must register with the Texas Dept. of Health (TDH) and must develop a Sanitary Operations Procedures Plan that you keep on file for government review in case anybody gets sick from your animals. If anybody does get sick, they may shut you down: TX Dept. of Ag; 512-463-7476; fax 512-463-1104; PO Box 12847, Capitol Station, Austin, TX 78711. Or Meat Safety Assurance Division, Bureau of Food and Drug Safety; 512719-0205; fax 512-810-0240; 1100 W 49th St., Austin, TX 78756.

Utah follows federal guidelines: UT Dept. of Ag and Food; 801-538-7101; fax 801-538-7126; 350 N. Redwood Rd, PO Box 146500, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6500. Or UT Dept of Ag; 801-538-7117; fax 801-538-7169; PO Box 146500, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6500.

Vermont's Commissioner of the Dept. of Ag, Food and Markets may exempt from inspection any person who could be exempted under the federal guidelines. But Vermont's rules are more strict than federal ones, applying only to processors of up to 1,000 birds. Any meat served in hotels, restaurants, or institutions must be from a state or federally inspected source: VT Dept of Ag, Food and Markets; 802-828-2426; fax 802-828-2361; Drawer 20, 116 State St., Montpelier, VT 05620-2901.

Virginia law follows the federal guidelines, but the state does require producers who want to operate under exemption to get a state permit: VA Dept. of Ag and Consumer Services; 804-786-3501; fax 804-371-2945; PO Box 1163, Richmond, VA 23209.

Washington's Dept. of Agriculture is in charge of inspections. Slaughter of birds by religious dietary laws or for home use is exempted. Inspection is unnecessary for poultry growers if they are under 250 turkeys or 1,000 birds of smaller species per year. But some city and county agencies have additional rules and do not recognize these exemptions (King County/Seattle area requires all poultry sold therein to be processed and stored in a state-licensed facility); WA Dept. of Ag; 360-902-1801; fax 360-902-2092;

PO Box 42560, Olympia, WA 98504-2560. Or WSU; 509335-2880; fax 509-335-1082; 123 Clark Hall, Pullman, WA 99164.

West Virginia exempts producer/processors of up to 1,000 home-grown, home-slaughtered birds per year, but has no application process to get the exemption: WV Dept of Ag, Meat and Poultry Inspection; 304-558-2207; fax 304-558-1882; State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E„ Charleston, WV 25305; [email protected]

Wisconsin exempts poultry processed on the owner's farm, up to 1,000 birds per year. Birds must be labeled and tagged with name/address of the grower and marked "NOT INSPECTED"; WI Dept. of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection; 608-224-5012; fax 608-224-5045 (or 608-224-4725; fax 603-224-4710); PO Box 8911, Madison, WI 53708.

Wyoming has no exemptions from inspection. The Ag Dept. does inspections: 307-777-6569; fax 307-777-6593; 2219 Carey Ave., Cheyenne, WY 82002. Or 307-266-1203; fax 307-266-3701; 473 Trigood Ave., Casper, WY 86209.

Continue reading here: Butchering Chickens

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