Meat processing rules and regulations are complex but not impossible to understand. Maintaining proper temperatures, good sanitation, and protection from foreign elements (indoors and out) are all important aspects of regulatory compliance, among others. Here you have several resources to set you on the right path to regulatory compliance.
Types of Inspection
Four types of inspection a meat processor can operate under currently exist in the meat safety system:
The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) is responsible for this type of inspection. Federally inspected products can be shipped over state lines (interstate commerce) and internationally to many countries. Federal inspection requires a HACCP plan, SSOPs, daily inspection of processing facilities, and, if the plant slaughters livestock, antemortem and postmortem inspection of every animal. As of 2013, all inspected plants must also have a recall plan in place.
State inspection is required by law to be "at least equal to" federal inspection in terms of regulatory rigor. However, state inspected meat and poultry products cannot be sold across state lines (restricted to intrastate commerce) unless the state and the plant both participate in the new Cooperative Interstate Shipment program. Wisconsin is one of 27 states that offer state meat inspection programs in the U.S.
Retail exemption allows a meat processor to sell meat at its own retail storefront without developing a HACCP plan or being inspected daily by USDA FSIS. However, the processor is still subject to periodic, risk-based inspection by USDA FSIS and/or state and county authorities (e.g. county health departments). In addition, the meat used to produce retail products (fresh cuts or processed meats) must come from livestock inspected by USDA FSIS or the state inspection agency in the processor's own state.
A retail-exempt processor can also sell a limited amount of product on a wholesale basis to hotel, restaurant, or institutional customers, as long as the product has NOT been cooked, cured, smoked, rendered, refined, or otherwise processed in a manner not listed in 9 CFR 303.
Retail-exempt wholesaling is limited to 25% of the dollar value of the processor's total sales.
A custom-exempt plant can only slaughter and process livestock for the exclusive use of the owner(s). Like a retail exempt plant, the facilities will still be subject to periodic, risk-based inspection by USDA FSIS and/or state authorities.
A red meat plant can simultaneously do work that is custom-exempt, retail-exempt and state or federally inspected; a poultry plant cannot. Depending on the state, a plant may or may not be both state and federally inspected. There are several federal poultry processing exemptions, all of which are complex and only exempt facilities processing less than 20,000 birds per calendar year.
Formulations, or formulas, are intended to be a guide to the manufacture of an item consisting of more than one ingredient. In addition to meat, other ingredients could include water, spices, cures, flavorings, binders or extenders. When you have finished developing a formula, it must be submitted to the department prior to manufacture to be reviewed for the following concerns:
Are levels of restricted ingredients within regulatory requirements?
Is the proper product name used? Will the name used create an unfair economic advantage?
Are there any alelrgens in the product and are they properly addressed on the label?
Is the process used to create the products safe?
Once these questions have been addressed, the formula will be returned to you with correction or changes. You may then begin processing of the product.
Every meat or poultry product sold or offered for sale in packaged form as a consumer sized lot in any self-service sales facility must have an appropriate label. At a minimum, that label should show:
The true name of the product
An ingredients statement
The net weight
The name and address of the processor
More detailed labeling guidelines are available in the additional resources provided to the right.