Avoid the dilemma: County fair livestock need an owner before slaughter

Many small meat processors are booked all summer long due to the livestock that come from county fair sales, be sure to follow the rules no matter where the livestock originated.

Many meat processing businesses are something called “Custom-exempt,” which means that they can only offer slaughter and cutting as a service. The owner of the live animal must maintain ownership and acknowledge that the animal will not be inspected at the time of slaughter. So what does this mean for the county fair sale? There are a few rules to keep in mind that must be followed. First, a business may not own the animal if it goes to a custom-exempt facility. Each animal must have a name and address of an owner before it is slaughtered. One common question is, “can more than one person own the animal?” The answer to this is yes, multiple owners are acceptable, considering it’s unlikely for an average family to need an entire beef that would yield 450-550 pounds of meat. Make sure the processor has the name, address and phone number of each owner.

Gratitude and appreciation for the many businesses that support youth livestock programs each year is abundant, but the law must be followed. Businesses will have the publicity for purchasing animals at the fair as always, but they simply need to identify an individual who will own the product at the time of processing. Many businesses choose to donate their products from the sale. If donation is the end goal, then the animal must be slaughtered at a USDA-inspected facility and not a custom-exempt facility.

The Michigan Meat Association or the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network is a great starting point for those looking for a local meat processor.

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