A new agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes Iowa the seventh state where some small meat lockers can sell products in other states.
Almost a year ago, some small, state-inspected meat lockers approached the Iowa Department of Agriculture about joining the USDA cooperative interstate shipment program. It lets lockers with fewer than 25 employees apply for permission to sell their meat across state lines. Currently, those lockers are held to the same food safety and other standards as federally-inspected meat processors, but state employees are on-site during operations.
“We have a program that’s already jointly conducted with USDA,” says Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, “and this really takes it to the next level.”
Though the effort was underway well before the pandemic, Naig says the current situation has highlighted the need—both for consumers to have greater access to locally processed meat, and for lockers to have more avenues for selling their products.
“We’re really excited to be able to launch this and do it at a time when we’ve highlighted the importance of having additional markets,” Naig says.
Eligible meat and poultry processors will have to apply to join the program. Once they’re approved, they’ll still have daily on-site inspections from state employees, but federal food inspectors will also make periodic visits. They’ll be allowed to sell their products online and internationally as well as across state lines.
The other states in the cooperative interstate shipment program are Indiana, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Only states with a meat and poultry inspection program at least as rigid as the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service requirements are eligible to join the program.