Meat Processing

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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 Inspection 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 to make the sale. Meat lockers must be licensed by the IDALS- IMPIB to offer custom exempt slaughter. Custom-exempt lockers are inspected quarterly for sanitation but do not have a daily inspector presence and may only process animals for use by their owner(s).  Meat from these animals can not be sold after the fact. Do a search for the CUST filter to find custom-exempt lockers in your area: Owners of livestock also have the option to butcher their livestock 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 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, Food and Consumer Safety Bureau to license your meat freezers. For more information contact Food and Consumer Safety at 515-281-6538, or

IDALS asks 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 Inspection Bureau at or 515-281-3338 or by email at

Additional Web based Resources:

ISU Extension and Outreach offers the following publications to assist producers and individuals interested in opening a plant:

IDALS Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau’s Webpage has guidelines and other resources


Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network serves small plants and producers all over the United States and provides specific information about mobile slaughter units.


In addition to the above, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (provides federal inspection) maintains a page laying out the basic facility design and sanitation requirements here:


FSIS also has information about Mobile Slaughter Unit Compliance:


Date of Publication: 
May, 2020