Here, Joel is describing a legislative action in his state which might help consumers and producers both. Other states have already stepped up to make these changes. But, the back story as to why it is needed is the interesting part of his story here.
Self ascribed ‘Lunatic Farmer’, Joel Salatin, is a gifted speaker, writer, and farmer. He and his family operate Polyface Farms in Virginia. His blog is a fascinating and helpful insight into the difficulties farmers and ranchers of small holdings face. During this time of renewed interest of purchasing locally from local abattoir, I’m going to reblog those of his which address why local butcher shops and farmers do what they do and charge what they charge. I hope the series will be helpful. However, we are realists and know that once the huge foreign owned packers are back up and running, consumers will be back at Wal-mart buying cheap imported meat processed, in some cases, by illegal aliens.
The comments are worth reading as well, but you’ll need to click through to his blog site.
Yesterday I did a podcast with Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie on Free the People and the discussion turned to his 5-year-old bill the Prime Act. It has not gotten traction until now. In the last ten days, he’s picked up 18 co-sponsors. That’s pretty dramatic for a bill that couldn’t get a handful for 5 years.
People want to know what to do that would be beneficial during these disturbing times. Here is something you can do. Call your Congressman today–yes, just pick up the phone and call–and ask if he/she supports the Prime Act. This simple bill would unleash the full power of regional food security on the livestock sector, which you know is in complete disarray right now.
When CEO and legacy family member John Tyson looks at a CNN camera and says “the food system is broken,” that’s a big hairy deal. He and his ilk have spent their lifetimes creating this system that now can’t get burgers to Wendy’s and is foaming chickens, breaking broiler eggs, dumping milk, and euthanizing hogs. So imagine that rather than 100 mega-processing facilities around the country handling 80 percent of the meat, poultry, and dairy, we had 200,000 small facilities scattered all over, distanced, if you will, doing this processing?
That is where the Prime Act comes in. Right now, custom slaughter houses that do beef, pork, and lamb are under health department and USDA sanitation oversight, but they do not have an inspector or the inspector’s paperwork on site. These abattoirs service a person who brings in a live animal and wants it custom processed, like if you wanted to commission a woodworker to make a special table for your dining room. Without all the onerous inspection paperwork and under-foot bureaucrats, these smaller community-based abattoirs can operate easier and cheaper.
Inspection requires a host of additional licensing, infrastructure, paperwork (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point), bathrooms, inspector offices, and even prescribed hours of operation. Minimal compliance to get a license, even for the smallest plant, is estimated at an average $1 million. That’s a high entry fee.
As a result, right now in most counties, including mine (Augusta) you cannot raise a cow and legally sell a pound of ground beef from that animal to a neighbor without exporting it to another county with an inspected facility and re-importing it. But our county has a couple of operating small custom abattoirs within minutes of our local farms. We used to have a dozen when I was a kid. They can’t legally sell you a pound of ground beef; you have to buy at least a quarter of beef at a time. That’s a $500 entry fee to buy local.
The Prime Act simply says that custom slaughtered meat can be sold within the state. Why should everyone who wants to get neighborhood raised and processed meat be required to buy it in $500 increments? What if a neighbor only wants T-bone and a pound of ground? What if the neighbor doesn’t have a chest freezer? The current regulations are both price and poverty discriminatory. In addition, they force massive unnecessary transportation energy and time.
What about food safety? Folks, recalls come from the big plants, not these small custom places. A burger patty at McDonald’s has pieces of 600 cows in it; a burger patty from a custom house has only one cow in it. The risks are exponentially less in a smaller, community-based facility. Scale exemptions exist throughout our country, from day care to elder care to requirements to provide medical insurance to employees. Scale does matter.
Congressman Massie told me yesterday that many former operators of these small facilities have assured him that the day the Prime Act passes, they will re-open their doors and gladly solve the processing bottleneck in our broken food system. Few legislative initiatives could offer a more simple, comprehensive assurance of food security and marketplace competition to the 100 mega-processors that dominate our dysfunctional food chain. It’s the Prime Act. Massie says don’t email and don’t write a letter. Call; he says if 12 people call on a subject, they own their congressman on that issue.
Will you be part of the solution?