Supply chain challenges from COVID-19 have generated additional interest from consumers in purchasing meat directly from producers and a realization that capacity for small-scale meat processing in Iowa is limited. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Meat and Poultry Processing Bureau, which governs processing within the state of Iowa, is fielding numerous calls related to expanding small-scale processing.
If you are selling a live animal directly to an end consumer for them to process at a local locker or on their own, no license is needed. Meat lockers do not have to be state-inspected and can be licensed as custom-slaughter for an end user. Meat from these animals may not be sold after the fact. Do a search for the CUST filter to find custom-exempt lockers in your area: https://iowaagriculture.gov/meat-poultry-inspections-bureau/meat-and-poultry-plants. End consumers of live animals do have the option to butcher the animal themselves.
If you are selling meat from your livestock to home consumers or businesses within the state of Iowa, the animals must be slaughtered and processed under inspection by the state of Iowa. Search for 1ACB or 1B on the filter list above to find those plants. If you are storing meat processed in this manner on your property for later sales, you may also need a warehouse license from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals to license your meat freezers. https://dia.iowa.gov/food-consumer-safety/food-safety-license-applications.
IDALS encourages producers interested in establishing a new fixed processing facility, regulating a home butcher shop or establishing a mobile processing unit to contact them to discuss options, regulations and licensing needed for each option.
For more information, contact the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Meat and Poultry Bureau at www.iowaagriculture.gov/meatandpoultryinspection.asp or 515-281-3338 or by email at email@example.com.
ISU Extension has flowchart guidelines to help walk producers through meat sales.
- Marketing Local Foods series: Red Meat and Poultry
Guide to Designing a Small Red Meat Plant:
Iowa Meat Processors Resource Guidebook:
Beef and Pork Whole Animal Buying Guide:
Iowa Poultry Slaughter, Processing, and Sales Guidelines for Small-Scale Producers
Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network (NMPAN resources):
In addition to the above, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service maintains a page laying out the basic facility design and sanitation requirements here: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index/sanitation-performance-standards/sanitation-compliance-guide
FSIS Mobile Slaughter Unit Compliance Guide: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/091d8968-f850-45e5-b7fa-f3473e0c3b0e/Compliance_Guide_Mobile_Slaughter.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
The Bureau’s webpage (https://iowaagriculture.gov/meat-poultry-inspection-bureau) also has some basic guidance for those in Iowa.
The Niche Meat Processor’s Assistance Network’s resources on mobile slaughter can be found at https://www.nichemeatprocessing.org/mobile-unit-overview/.