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How to legally and ethically sell animal products?

 
Kaye Harris
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Hello, you beloved permaculture geniuses! 

I have followed Permies for a long time and admired you all from afar, and I can no longer keep to myself.  My spouse and I are finally getting close to beginning our very own set up, so we are crunching numbers and investigating legalities.

How in the world do you all profit from your livestock?  Direct Market?  Auction?  Sale Barn?  How do you deal with Big Brother?  As much as I hate him sticking his nasty fingers into everything, I do want to respect him enough to stay in business in the long haul.

It is seemingly illegal for us to slaughter our own sheep/cattle/poultry and sell to the consumer.  Can't find any mobile slaughter units in the area of our desired property, so the legal alternative for direct market seems to be: transport livestock (stress) to a slaughterhouse (ugh) and pay someone to do it all (ka-ching) and then transport the meat (ka-ching) back to a regulated area, then transport to sale?  That's inefficient and I don't want to put my animals or myself through that.

In a dream world, I would love to be able to provide people with old-style eggs, raw aged cheeses, and meats, without stressful transport, auction pandemonium, feedlot/slaughterhouse concentration camps.  I really want to be able to provide my livestock with a beautiful, peaceful life ended in quick surprise.  After all the effort I've put into raising amazing, grass-fed, all natural, no-ick animals, the last thing I want is to sell it low to someone who will muck it all up.

Can't wait to benefit from your wisdom and creativity!

P.S.
While I've researched the crap out of permaculture for years, I still consider myself an ignorant city fool. 
I am not allergic to extensive explanation about the finer details of agricultural processes.
 
wayne fajkus
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Our livestock is limited to our personal consumption so we haven't had to deal with it.

But...I would sell the animal or sell it and deliver it to a slaughter house. The buyer could pick it up there.

If it's a big animal  (cow), I'd sell halves of the cow.

This is assuming a slaughter house is reasonably local.
 
John Polk
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Welcome to permies, Kaye.

Good questions you raised.

The legalities of selling animal products will vary from state to state.
All states have some laws in place regarding this, but some states are so restrictive that unless you are a commercial packing house (who has contributed to the political parties), they make it almost impossible for a small enterprise to get into this business.

If any of your products cross a state line, then you also fall under federal regulations, which are more restrictive than state regulations.

Perhaps, if you include your location, people from that state who have dealt with this, will be able to get the ball rolling on what you can expect to be the options in this endeavor.

Good luck.

 
Kaye Harris
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John Polk wrote:Welcome to permies, Kaye.

Good questions you raised.

The legalities of selling animal products will vary from state to state.
All states have some laws in place regarding this, but some states are so restrictive that unless you are a commercial packing house (who has contributed to the political parties), they make it almost impossible for a small enterprise to get into this business.

If any of your products cross a state line, then you also fall under federal regulations, which are more restrictive than state regulations.

Perhaps, if you include your location, people from that state who have dealt with this, will be able to get the ball rolling on what you can expect to be the options in this endeavor.

Good luck.



Thank you!  The place we are considering for our operation is right on the southern Missouri border, in a very undeveloped county.  The nearest civilization is, unfortunately, across the state line in Arkansas.  :|
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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As far as I can tell, legal and ethical are not related to each other in any way...

Around here, black-market milk, egg, and meat sales are very much a thriving enterprise. The risk of getting caught is almost non-existent as long as you don't advertise on Facebook, or similar venues. Close as I can tell, the government is flat out broke. I suppose more broke than all other bankruptcies in the history of the world combined. Seems like there are simply not enough dollars to enforce meat prohibition.





 
Kaye Harris
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
As far as I can tell, legal and ethical are not related to each other in any way...

Around here, black-market milk, egg, and meat sales are very much a thriving enterprise. The risk of getting caught is almost non-existent as long as you don't advertise on Facebook, or similar venues. Close as I can tell, the government is flat out broke. I suppose more broke than all other bankruptcies in the history of the world combined. Seems like there are simply not enough dollars to enforce meat prohibition.


Sorry for the delay.  The power grid got knocked out, so I've spent the last two days reading and fanning myself with mike oehler's $50 underground house book, wishing that I actually had an underground house.  Ugh.

Anyway--good point.  I completely agree that legal & ethical are not related.  That is why I am struggling to figure out how to do both simultaneously.  I want to know that "they" would have no legal standing to do anything to me or my patch, so then I could flaunt everything I do all the more, and help make it normal.  If I'm not legal, I have to hide and hope no one finds me or tattles, or suck up to everyone who has "the secret knowledge".  That's a life of dependence on others for my continued freedom, which kind of defeats the purpose for me.  I hope to essentially do the same thing with a few tweaks that make it kosher.

I am hoping there might be someone out there who knows some loopholes?  For example, I have heard that you could technically sell meat that you butchered yourself if you labeled it "not for human consumption" and so on.  Does anyone do this with a shared understanding?  I would have no problem purchasing "raw dog food" for my kitchen, myself.

A good example of the loopholes I'm looking for may be how Paul Wheaton mentioned that sepp holzer does a paid "tour" that is NOT a U-pick.    

 
Wes Hunter
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In Missouri, you have quite a bit of freedom.

Poultry can be processed on-farm, for sale to the end consumer (private customer, restaurant) up to 1,000 birds per year, with no governmental oversight.  Technically the state has the right to inspect, but there are so many of us doing this that there just isn't the manpower, nor are we of great concern to them (at the moment, at least).  Even labeling requirements are very lax.  You can still process on-farm up to 20,000 birds per year, but once you cross the 1,000 bird threshold you do become an inspected farm.

Eggs are a cinch.  A $5.00 license from the state grants you the ability to sell eggs off the farm or through a farmer's market.  Another (different) $5.00 license and you're set up for wholesale.  At a certain point you'd have to comply with certain packaging/labeling requirements, but it doesn't sound like you'll be anywhere near there.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that a "slaughterhouse" is what you read about in The Jungle, or those images on the nightly news.  Missouri is blessed with lots of small-scale processors for 4-legged critters.  Some are great, some are good, some not so much.  Do your research and ask around.  But just because you take them to a processor doesn't mean that it's the big-bad-industrial-slaughterhouse experience.  Call a few up and ask to look around.  See how they do things, what their setup is like, etc.  And no, transporting animals in a trailer to the butcher isn't a walk in the park for them, but if you have good calm stock, and you know how to load and unload them, and you pick a good processor, the bit of stress they're going to endure is far from being unethical.  Heck, they're going to be stressed on the farm, too, with weather changes, predators, waving tree limbs, you name it.  A stressed animal is not an unethically-treated animal.  Constant stress, yes, but intermittent stress, no.

If you want to butcher 4-legged critters on-farm for sale, you could technically sell the animal live, for a set price, and butcher for "free."  Who's to know if you added a phantom fee for the butchering process?  What you can't do, however, at least not legally, is butcher an animal on-farm and sell it piecemeal, by the cut.  It's all or nothing.  Perhaps if you sold it as dog food, but is that really the route you want to take with your farm production?

If you're going to sell across the state line, that's a whole 'nother ball of wax, one I know nothing about.  And for that matter, none of the above constitutes any sort of legal advice.  Just my two cents on what the regulations are like in Missouri.  For what it's worth, you could call up the appropriate state departments, talk to 10 different people, and as like as not get 10 different answers.  So it's not exactly a black-and-white issue.
 
Miranda Converse
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One way to profit from eggs legally is to sell them as 'hatching' eggs. You can actually sell them for a lot more than you could for food (if you have the right breeds), although the market is smaller.  I've seen some hatching eggs sell for $80+/dz for rare breeds.  Just an idea...

One thing to be aware of if you use the 'not for human consumption' loophole, some places have some strict regulations on animal feed as well. A lot of people around here use that but technically they could be fined for not having the proper feed license. That's Florida though, this state has some crazy regulations but I never hear of any enforcement.
 
Kaye Harris
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Wes:
Thank you for that info!  You've helped set my mind at ease.  I didn't know there was a difference between selling the whole animal and selling pieces.  That helps me know where to direct my research into the legal sphere.  It gets a bit discouraging to wade through ag. dept. papers full of, "You can only do what you want if you sing yankee doodle on your head and pay us ten thousand dollars to come watch." 

I guess the downsides of slaughtering at a processor come down to dollars and lack of blood/innards for the circle of life.  I've seen some processors that will give you some select innards and the hide back for an extra fee. 

Considering your experienced knowledge on the stress levels of transport, what is your opinion of livestock auctions and sale barns?  I went to a livestock auction for cattle a few years ago, and it sounded awful and didn't look too good from my inexperienced perspective.  Maybe I'm just naïve?

Miranda:
That's a good idea, albeit hard to picture me in that business.  If in regards to labeling, it would make sense in the regard of refrigeration as washing and cooling would be a no-no.  (I personally prefer the old-fashioned way: washing lukewarm, farm-fresh eggs just before use.)

After skimming through the MO regulations, "dog food" doesn't seem undoable once you make up the labels.  If someone actually does get it just for Fido, that will be one healthy, spoiled dog!
 
Wes Hunter
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Sale barns are terrible.  Goodness, they're stressful enough for me, and I'm not being driven through the ring.  Plus, when you buy from a sale barn you're often buying someone else's junk.  The exceptions are calves (or other young animals), since many farmers market all of their calves that way and not just their problem animals.  Of course, younger animals are more likely to be negatively affected by the stress.

Breed-specific sales are presumably different, though I've never been to one.  Folks there are still somewhat likely to be selling off what they don't want, but there's a greater chance they were starting off with better animals, and depending on who is controlling the auction I'd expect better treatment since those folks are more likely to actually like their animals.

As for the costs of paying for processing, it can really be quite economical, and won't necessarily add a great deal to your cost of production.  And it'll make your life a lot easier on the selling side, unless you want to explain to each potential customer, "Now, this is dog food, see, and not for human consumption, but we eat it, and it's just fine, but technically it isn't for human consumption wink wink."  I get where you're coming from, and I sympathize, but some battles aren't worth fighting.
 
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