By BRUCE STEELMAN
The number of Tennessee farmers finishing cattle for harvest, processing and marketing beef directly to household consumers in on the rise. This is despite the challenges of identifying and understanding the necessary regulatory requirements.
The University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture has developed a publication that can help producers who are considering this value-added business venture to navigate the confusing regulatory requirements. Basic Regulatory Considerations for Retail and Non-retail Meat Sales in Tennessee (PB1805).
The process begins with a state permit to sell meat at a retail establishment. As of September 2013, approximately 86 entities are approved in Tennessee for farm-based meat sales through the TDA retail meat permit. These producers have already waded through the regulations, and others are in the process.
The first requirement for lawful sale of meat products directly to home consumers is that the animals from which the meat originates must be harvested in a USDA-inspected facility. Further, the facility must be credentialed to harvest the meat from the specific animal species and the meat must be properly packaged and properly labeled in the USDA-inspected facility and transported in a safe, wholesome and secure manner from the USDA facility until final delivery to retail customers.
Units used for meat storage and transportation must be cleanable and kept clean and in good repair. Units must maintain the wholesomeness and temperature of the product. A cooler, refrigerator or freezer operated by a power inverter is acceptable, he said.
Consider these steps for obtaining a Tennessee retail meat permit:
(1) Contact the TDA's Food and Dairy Section of the Regulatory Services Division in Nashville (phone: 615-837-5193) regarding interest in a farm-based retail meat permit. Simply notify whoever answers the telephone that you are "interested in a farm-based retail meat permit."
(2) TDA will note your name and contact information and will notify the inspector in your area to schedule an initial consultation. A one-page listing and summary of the retail meat permit requirements/guidelines will be sent upon request.
(3) The inspector will schedule a consultation visit and/or an initial inspection, depending on the status of the facility and business.
(4) The inspector will use the TDA Food Establishment Inspection form to conduct the on-site inspection. As part of the on-site inspection, the inspector will issue an application for permit if the facility is found in compliance with requirements. Also, the inspector will conduct a review of the product label as part of the on-site inspection.
(5) Instructions will be provided for mailing the application and remitting the $50 permit fee.
(6) After the completed application for permit and the permit fee have been received by the main TDA office in Nashville, the actual permit will be issued and mailed.
Some of the additional key issues and requirements of the state retail meat permit are:
- The permit must be posted wherever meat sales occur.
- TDA must conduct an Initial and annual inspections of facilities, storage units and transportation units. The annual permit fee is $50.
- Meat storage units must be located in a secure area away from potential contamination sources. Units must dedicated to the meat offered for sale and must be accessible for inspection by TDA.
- Thermometers are required in coolers, freezers and refrigeration units to verify storage temperatures. Refrigerated products must be maintained at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Frozen products must be hard-frozen and no re-freezing of product is permitted.
- Meat handlers should practice good personal hygiene, with clean hands and proper outer clothing.
For more details, including copies of the TDA forms, read the UT Extension publication "Basic Regulatory Considerations for Retail and Non-retail Meat Sales in Tennessee" (PB1805). It's available free at the Cannon County UT Extension office or online at https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1805.pdf .
UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issue at the local, state and national levels.