How to Get Certified to Process Meat


The certification procedure for processing meat will depend on the state where you will be operating and the type of sales you will be conducting. Meat products that will be sold across state lines must use carcasses that have been certified and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are state-level requirements in most parts of the country as well, but some states offer exemptions for family-run operations or facilities that process meat to be sold directly to end users, such as at farmers' markets.

Things You'll Need

  • Approved facility
  • Licensing paperwork
  • Write a business plan, taking time to consider where you will be sourcing your meat and who your customers will be. Contact your state's department of agriculture and the USDA to explain exactly what you will be doing, and ask them to send you relevant paperwork.

  • Prepare an equipment list, detailing machinery you will be using in your facility. Make sure everything you have listed is on the USDA's Approved Equipment List. You will not need to submit this list for review, but inspectors may cite violations during inspections if your equipment is not compliant.

  • Prepare a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point policy statement, detailing the procedures that you will use to ensure that your facility is clean and your product is safe. You will need to conduct microbial testing on a regular basis to check for the presence of Escherichia coli, or E. coli. The USDA offers assistance to small-scale operators in completing HACCP reports.

  • If your production plans require steps or processes that do not fit neatly into state or federal protocols, you will need to formally request a variance. Contact the authorities who will be supervising your operation and ask them about the relevant procedure. This will usually involve paying a fee, then requesting a hearing where you can explain your production processes, and then providing evidence that they are safe.

  • If you are interested in obtaining organic certification for your meat processing facility, you will need to pay additional fees and complete additional paperwork. Organic status can usually be obtained through your state's agricultural department, and if you are processing product for interstate commerce, you will work with the USDA as well. Organic certification must be obtained in addition to your primary certification, rather than as a substitute for it.

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