The Processing Revival and Instrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act has been put forward by US Representatives Thomas Massie, Republican, and Chellie Pingree, Democrat, along with US senators Angus King of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky in a bid to make it easier for local businesses to provide meat for customers.
Currently, only ‘custom’ slaughter is exempt from federal inspection regulations, which means meat that it is slaughtered for personal, household, guest or employee use. All other animals for slaughter must be sent to a state- or USDA-inspected slaughterhouse.
If approved, it would allow states to develop their own regulations for meat produced and sold only in that state.
Massie, a small-scale cattle farmer, said inspection requirements were hindering consumer desire. “As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with the difficulties small producers face when marketing directly to consumers. Despite consumers’ desire to know where their food comes from, federal inspection requirements make it difficult for them to purchase food from local farmers they know and trust. These onerous federal rules also make it more difficult for small farms and ranches to succeed financially. It is time to open our markets to small farms and producers and give consumers the freedom to choose.”
Pingree, also a cattle farmer, added: “A lack of available processors is something I hear about from farmers in my District constantly. The meat they raise is in high demand by local customers who are willing to pay a premium for it, but the nearest state- or USDA-inspected processing facility could be hours away and the wait list could be months long. That is just crazy and defeats the whole point of locally produced food. If we can change the federal regulations a little, to make it easier to process meat locally, it’s going to help farmers scale up and give local consumers what they want.”
King said: “In Maine, we are in the midst of a thriving local foods movement, with a growing number of people looking to buy locally-produced meats. But farmers are facing a serious obstacle in meeting that supply due to a limited number of meat processing facilities.
‘Health’ at risk
“It makes no sense that a Maine farmer would have to send their animals halfway across the state when they’re looking to sell the meat to their neighbour. This bill, which I’m proud to introduce with my colleague Senator Rand Paul, will give states like Maine more flexibility to regulate the processing and local sale of meats – a common-sense measure that will support Maine farmers and the local foods movement, all while maintaining customer safety.”
The PRIME Act was first put forward in 2015 by Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie in 2015, but stalled at the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture level.
However, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is vehemently opposed to the PRIME Act. It said: “It [PRIME Act] would allow for the commercial sale of non-inspected meat products. USDA’s FSIS or fully equivalent state inspection systems are essential partners, along with producers, packers and processors, in delivering safe meat products that consumers can enjoy with confidence. Federal and state inspection programs also are a key component in protecting animal health by ensuring that every animal offered for commercial slaughter is inspected for signs of disease, in particular foreign animal diseases that pose a significant threat to the viability of American agriculture.”