Interstate Shipment of State-Inspected Meat

Program Basics

Before enactment of the 2008 Farm Bill, the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act prohibited selling state-inspected meat and poultry products (beef, poultry, pork, lamb and goat) across state lines. This regulation was in sharp contrast to other state-inspected food products (milk, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, fish and shellfish), which are freely marketed across the country.Furthermore, meat and poultry products from 34 foreign countries can also be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the United States. Even “non-amenable” products – such as venison, bison, pheasant, quail, rabbit and others – can be shipped across state lines without restriction even though these products are normally regulated by state inspection programs.

The federal restrictions on interstate shipment of meat and poultry was a burden on small farmers and ranchers, who may not live near small-scale federally-inspected meat and poultry plants and are often shut out of large-scale federally-inspected plants, because they do not have contracts with the processors or because they deliver relatively small lots at one time for processing.

Twenty-five states currently have state inspection programs for meat and poultry and two states have only meat inspection programs. They serve more than 2,000 state-inspected meat processors, which are mostly small, family-owned businesses often providing processing services for smaller-scale farms or for specialized, niche markets such as grass-fed beef or pasture-raised pork.

2008 Farm Bill Changes

A new provision allows for the interstate shipment of meat and poultry and their products from certain small state-inspected packing and processing establishments.

The new provision does not allow for the interstate shipment of all meat and poultry that have been inspected by state agencies under state law. The new system creates a hybrid federal-state process, with the following features:

  • In states with state-inspected meat and poultry programs, USDA is authorized to select meat and poultry processing establishments, which previously operated under state inspection laws and want to sell their products in interstate commerce, to participate in the new inspection program.
  • Under the new program, USDA will designate a federal employee as a state coordinator for each state agency that has a state meat or poultry inspection program.  Although the meat and poultry are inspected by state-employed inspectors, the federally-employed state coordinator will oversee the training and inspection activities of state agency personnel, assure that meat and poultry processing plants are in full compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and report to USDA on the status of the processing operations.
  • Meat and poultry inspected in the new program will use a federal mark, stamp, tag or label of inspection.
  • The new program will be open to meat and poultry processors with up to 25 employees.
  • USDA may also develop a procedure to help establishments that employ between 26-35 employees to transition to federal inspection in order to ship their products in interstate commerce.
  • USDA is required to reimburse the states for at least 60% of the costs related to inspection of the meat and poultry processors selected for the new inspection program.
  • USDA is required to establish an inspection training division within the Food Safety Inspection Service to coordinate initiatives to provide outreach, education, and training to small or very small establishments. USDA will provide funding to state agencies to provide outreach, technical assistance, education, and training to small or very small establishments.
  • USDA’s Office of Inspector General is required to conduct periodic audits to assure plants operating under Title V are complying with federal requirements.

Section 11015 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends the Federal Meat Inspection Act by adding a new Title V – “Inspections by Federal and State Agencies” – to be codified at 21 U.S.C. Section 683 and amends the Poultry Products Inspection Act by adding a new Section 31, to be codified at 21 U.S.C. Section 472.


Funding for implementation of the new hybrid program will be a function of the annual agriculture appropriations bill. Some of the functions included in the new provision are already provided for in current appropriations, but others will represent new additional spending. The new state coordinators and new inspection training division in particular will require enhanced appropriations in the coming years.

Implementation Basics

The USDA issued final regulations for the program that took effect in July 2011. In August 2012, USDA announced that Ohio is the first program approved for participation in the Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program. The Farm Bill requires that the U.S. Government Accountability Office conduct an audit within three to five years after implementation of the program.

Additional Resources

USDA website for the Food Safety Inspection Service

A listing of the 27 states with state inspection programs

FSIS office locations and phone numbers

More information about Interstate Sales of State-Inspected Meat and Poultry from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture can be found here