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May 26, 2017

Bill reintroduced to help small farms process meat

A federal bill being reintroduced would allow small farms to slaughter animals on a custom basis, cutting out some federal regulations.

Sen. Angus King said in a press release Thursday the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act, or PRIME Act, would give individual states the freedom to permit intrastate distribution of custom-slaughtered products such as beef, pork, goat or lamb to consumers, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses and grocery stores.

The bill was originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in 2015. King and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced it in the U.S. Senate in March 2016. It was reintroduced this week by King and Paul in the Senate and Pingree and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) in the House.

“[The PRIME Act] will give states like Maine more flexibility to regulate the processing and local sale of meats — a common-sense measure that will support Maine farmers and the local foods movement, all while maintaining customer safety.”

Under current law, the custom slaughter of animals is exempt from federal inspection regulations only if the animal is slaughtered for personal, household, guest or employee use. That means in order to sell individual cuts of locally-raised meats, farmers and ranchers must first send their animals to one of a limited number of state or USDA-inspected slaughterhouses, which are sometimes hundreds of miles away, adding substantially to transportation costs and stress on the animals.

There are currently five USDA-inspected and eight state-inspected meat processors in Maine.

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