Want to sell meat? Check out the rules for your state

Producers can sell meat to consumers, but they need to follow inspection rules and other state regulations.

Producers who want to sell cuts of meat directly to customers must follow rules related to inspection, labeling and more. Jenny Schlecht / Agweek

Supply chain issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic have put new focus on the conveniences of buying from local producers, but there are rules that must followed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture reported 130,056 U.S. farms directly marketed more than $2.8 billion of farm products to consumers. An updated report on local foods marketing is scheduled to be released in fall 2021.

For livestock producers, requirements to market meat vary by state.

Producers can have meat processed for their own use at “custom exempt” facilities without continuous state or federal inspection, and they can deliver animals to such facilities for consumers who will pay for the animals and the processing, but marketing individual cuts of meat must be done under inspection.

Meat can be processed under state inspection in most states and sold throughout that state. Meat processed under federal inspection can be sold across state lines.


Check with your state for additional requirements before selling meat. Here’s a look at some rules in states across the region for selling meat:


Under Iowa state law, species of deer and elk also must be inspected before they can be sold for food in the state. For more information on labeling and other specifications, visit .


The meat from wild game cannot be sold and can only be consumed by the owner, the owner's immediate family, and non-paying guests. Wild game meat must be identified “NOT FOR SALE.” For more information on meat processing in Minnesota, visit .


Facilities that store meat for retail or wholesale require meat depot licenses, available from the Montana Department of Livestock. For more information on meat processing, including flow charts on what type of processor is needed in different circumstances, visit .

North Dakota:

A farmer may sell up to 1,000 chickens off the farm without inspection provided that the slaughter and processing are conducted under sanitary standards, practices and procedures, the producer is registered with the state Department of Agriculture and that accurate records of all poultry sold are kept. A producer may also apply for an exemption allowing the sale of up to 20,000 birds annually with a quarterly inspection of the facility. Selling meat in North Dakota requires a retail food license available from the North Dakota State Health Department Food and Lodging Division; for more information on licensing visit .

South Dakota:

Bison, elk, deer, etc., processed under state inspection in South Dakota can be sold across state lines. More information about labeling and other details can be found at .

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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