How Regulations are Classified

The slaughtering and processing regulations that a farmer is required to abide by vary according to several factors. A farmer must first determine what type of animal or bird he or she is raising. Is it a farm animal or is it poultry? Ratites can be confusing. In 2002 the USDA required mandatory inspection of ratities. These large flightless birds are considered a red meat, and are often slaughtered at plants with both meat and poultry capabilities . Although these birds are not listed in the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), the USDA recently listed them as poultry in the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA).

The farmer must next decide if that animal is considered amenable or non-amenable.. Any amenable animal or poultry is specifically listed in the regulations. Those animals or birds not listed are classified as non-amenable. However, designation may vary from state to state. For example, bison are not specifically mentioned in the FMIA, making it non-amenable. Never the less, specific state provisions may grant it amenable status for slaughter, as is the case in Iowa.

A farmer must then decide where and how the product will be sold. Will the product stay in state or will it be shipped out of state? Will product be sold retail or wholesale? If the farmer is doing his own marketing, will he be selling directly to an end consumer or will there be an intermediary such as a retail store or restaurant? Will the farmer sell live animals, carcasses, or retail cuts? The answers to these questions determine what type of slaughter facility is licensed to handle each of the different kinds of sales.

The last factor to consider is whether the animal needs to be raised, slaughtered, and processed under specialized restrictions to meet any religious requirements of a given consumer market.

Once the above questions have been answered, it is far easier to figure out which regulations apply. The following section is designed to help a farmer determine which slaughtering and processing options are most appropriate for their situation.

Are the Animals or Birds Amenable or Non-amenable?

A farmer must determine the legal classification for his or her type of livestock or poultry. He/she must decide if the animals being raised are amenable or not.

Amenable is defined as “answerable or accountable to higher authority”. The USDA lists the animals and birds that are considered “amenable” and which must then be slaughtered and processed under the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “Amenable” indicates that the animal species is specifically mentioned in the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA).

Amenable livestock are those animals listed within the Act. Amenable livestock includes all cattle, sheep, goats, swine, and equines.

Amenable poultry listed specifically in the Act include chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, ratites, or squabs, also termed young pigeons from one to about thirty days of age), whether live or dead . (Section 381.1) Ratites (ostrich, emus, and rhea) were recently added to the list of amenable poultry species. All these listed birds are considered amenable species and fall under the jurisdiction of the FSIS.  The slaughter and processing regulations specified for them differ from those of livestock. Poultry slaughtering and processing regulations are detailed in the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

Non-amenable livestock and poultry are those animals and birds that are not listed specifically in the Federal Meat Inspection Act. They are not required to be processed under the Food Safety and Inspection Service, but are subject to FDA regulations. For the most part, non-amenable species may also be considered game animals or birds. Because they are consumed in limited numbers, the potential risk from consuming an adulterated product from a non-amenable species is minimal in comparison to an amenable species.

Non-amenable species include mammals such as reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, water buffalo, bison, squirrel, opossum, raccoon, rabbits, nutria or muskrat, and non-aquatic reptiles such as land snakes. Even if a farmer raises a domesticated species, it is still considered non-amenable. For example, farm raised White-tailed Deer or New Zealand rabbits are both non-amenable species, though both can be found on farms across the state. Non-amenable poultry includes game birds such as pheasant and quail. These birds can also be found on many farms.

Aquatic reptiles (turtles, alligator, water snakes, and frogs) are considered game animals by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies these aquatic reptiles as “Seafood” and they are therefore subject to the FDA’s Office of Seafood regulations. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce administers the voluntary seafood inspection program.

A game animal refers to an animal – the products of which are food – that is not classified as fish, cattle, sheep, swine, goat, horse, mule, or other equine, as defined by the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry and Poultry Products inspection Act. Game animals are defined in section 11-0103 of the NYS Environmental Conservation law. Wild game includes game birds, big game, and small game. Game birds are subdivided into migratory game birds and upland game birds. “Upland game birds” (Gallinae) refers to wild turkeys, grouse, pheasant, Hungarian or European gray-legged partridge and quail.

Big game“ means deer, bear, moose, elk, except captive bred and raised North American elk (Cervus elaphus), caribou, and antelope.

Small game” means black, gray and fox squirrels,  hares,  cottontail  rabbits,  frogs, land turtles, box, wood and the bog  turtles, coyotes,  red  fox  and gray fox except captive bred red fox or gray fox, raccoon, opossum, or  weasel,  skunk,  bobcat, lynx,  muskrat,  mink,  except  mink  born  in captivity, fisher, otter, beaver, sable and marten but does not include coydogs.

To qualify as domestic game, captive bred game, farm raised game or non-native big game, the game must be held in private ownership on a licensed premise by which there is no means of escaping into the wild. Captive bred North American big game mammals may include:  cougar, wolf, bear, bison, big horn sheep, mountain goat, antelope, elk, musk ox, mule deer, black tailed deer, caribou, swine, and other domestic game animals as defined by law.

Some wild game may be taken by lawful hunting including deer, bears, coyotes, and rabbit. Trapping of game is also permitted but deer and bear may NOT be trapped. Some wild species legally taken (legally hunted or trapped within the designated season) and legally possessed may be sold. Skunk, bobcat, mink, raccoon, and muskrat may be bought and sold alive, dead, or in part during their respective open seasons. Migratory game birds and beaver, fisher, otter, bobcat, coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, muskrat and mink shall be possessed, transported, and disposed of only as permitted by regulation of the department. The flesh of cottontail rabbits, hares, squirrels, bear and deer shall not be bought or sold, except as provided in section 11-1713 with respect to bear.

For more information, contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Why Identifying a Market Channel is Important

Regulations for livestock slaughter and meat processing vary depending on which market channel the farmer ultimately markets his or her product within. The regulations are not consistent across the three different animal classifications, and the determination of the market channel is critical to ensure lawful compliance for the end-market being served. Later chapters discuss specifically the regulations for amenable livestock, non-amenable animals, and amenable poultry. However, market channels are discussed here to help farmers determine what slaughtering and processing is required for their business model.

In a typical supply chain, a farmer might sell his or her slaughter animals at a local auction where a regional livestock dealer picks them up to sell to a distributor. The distributor could be a meat packer (a slaughterhouse that takes orders for carcasses from wholesale or retail businesses and then buys live animals and then slaughters and processes them to fill the orders) or a wholesale business that buys animals outright and then arranges their processing at a slaughterhouse of their choice. The distributor then sells the carcasses or meat cuts to retail businesses that in turn serve the end consumer directly.

There are several opportunities to shorten this chain. For example, a farmer might sell his or her live animals direct to a dealer, a live animal market, or a farmer-owned cooperative. It is important to note that a farmer generally assumes more labor and legal responsibility the more he or she becomes involved in the marketing process.

Even if simply taking an animal to auction, every farmer has some legal responsibility. When animals leave a farm for the auction house, farmers need to make sure animals are tagged and are wearing official USDA (for amenable species) or NYSDAM (for non-amenable species and poultry) identification as required. Farmers should contact potential buyers, accurately describe their animals, make sure they meet the market demand, arrange for transporting, and request prompt payment

Even greater advantages are recognized when a farmer sells their livestock directly to consumers, who then make the slaughter arrangements. Even though this is a very direct way to market an animal, the fact that a live animal is sold (rather than the meat from it) allows a farmer to fall outside the parameters of many regulations. In this case, the meat from the live animal does not enter commerce, only the animal does. In this sales arrangement, the consumer often has a chance to evaluate visually the herd health and can easily trace back to the farm any problems that may arise.

A farmer can also evolve into a dealer or packer. If this occurs, then there are several licensing and bonding issues a farmer should be aware of. These are discussed in a later chapter on wholesaling.

Recently, New York farmers have opted to build custom or 5-A slaughterhouses on their property. Some have even expanded their operations to include a live animal market. Some farmers have added an additional processing license to allow them to manufacture various meat and poultry value-added type products.

A farmer may also decide to sell meat and poultry products themselves. When selling meat, it is important for farmers to remember that the closer they move to the end consumer, the more responsibility they take on. Regulations and licensing for amenable red meat differ depending on whether a farmer is operating as a wholesaler and selling carcasses or retail cuts to other wholesalers, retail businesses, and restaurants; Or whether they are operating as a retailer and selling meat cuts direct to consumers. In the case of poultry, there are important exemptions from federal inspection depending on how many birds a poultry grower is processing for sale and whom they are selling the birds to.

The important point to remember is that the regulations for slaughtering and processing depend greatly on if a farmer decides to market live animals, carcasses, or retail cuts to wholesalers, retail businesses or direct to consumers.

What is Commerce?

Commerce is the exchange or transportation of poultry products between States, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Commerce can be interstate or intrastate. The USDA FSIS does not view the product as having been introduced into commerce if it has not left the control of the processing entity. Therefore, products sold at a farmers’ market by the farmer himself or by his employee are not considered to have entered commerce. However, if someone other than the farmer sells the product at the market, then the product enters commerce.

(Reference USDA Guidance for Determining Whether a Poultry Slaughter or Processing Operation is Exempt from Inspection Requirements of the Poultry Products Inspection Act, Revision1, April 2006.)

Intrastate or Interstate?

NOTE: In this section and the one following on Imports and Exports, we address the movement of meat and meat products. Movement of live animals in interstate and international trade is beyond the scope of this project – as states and countries have very rigid and specific requirements for live animal movement. It is as important to contact the exporting state for the appropriate health tests required, as it is the importing state to determine what papers are needed.

Please consult the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for information on moving live animals for interstate and international trade.

Intra-State refers to transactions within a single state. A sale made from a farmer in Owego, NY to a customer in Ithaca, NY is an intra-state sale.

Inter-State refers to transactions across state lines. This is trade between two states. A sale made between a farmer in Whitehall, NY and a customer in Rutland, VT is an inter-state sale.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, has authority over food in interstate commerce unless regulated by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The Federal Meat Inspection Act permits states to have a cooperative agreement with USDA FSIS, whereby states have a mandatory meat inspection program equal to the federal standards. The federal law limits state inspected amenable animals to intrastate commerce. However, this limitation is currently being challenged and may soon be changed.

In contrast, non-amenable meat from state licensed 5-A plants is eligible for sales in all states, including states with state inspection programs. Just because it is eligible for sale does not guarantee that it is legally allowed to be sold in a particular state. State or local health codes may prohibit the sale of state inspected non-amenable meat. When Chronic Wasting Disease was discovered east of the Mississippi River, many states closed their borders to the sale of not only live cervids, but also to the meat from these farmed species.

It is up to the producer to know the regulations of the jurisdiction to which he will be shipping his or her products. It is recommended that the producer call the State Department of Agriculture and the State Department of Fish and Game (or Natural Resources) to see what products are legally allowed to be sold in that state, what products are allowed to come into that state and what, if any, inspections are required for it to do so.

Import or Export?

NOTE: For our purpose, import and export will be defined as a transaction between two countries (as opposed to two places). The destination of the end product may in some cases determine the inspections required.

Import is the act of bringing into a country a commodity from another country or place for sale or exchange.

Export is the act of sending a commodity to another country or place for sale or exchange.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) requires that countries exporting meat products to the United States impose inspection requirements that are equivalent to U.S. requirements. Under this statute, imported meat products are to be treated as “domestic” product upon entry into the United States. All meat products imported into the United States must bear the country of origin on the labeling of the original container in which they are shipped.

If an imported meat product is intended to be sold intact, then it must remain in its original packaging (with the country of origin and foreign establishment number on the label) to the point of consumer purchase. For example, canned ham imported from Denmark and sold intact would bear the label “Product of Denmark”.

If imported meat is removed from its original container and packaging and is cut or processed in any way in the United States, the resultant product does not need to bear country-of-origin labeling. For example, ham salad made from imported Danish ham does not need to bear a label identifying the country of origin of the ham. The labeling requirements for the resultant product are the same as for domestic product.

In March 2009, the Country of Origin Labeling law went into effect. The law requires that muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb (including mutton), pork, goat, and chicken; ground beef, ground lamb, ground pork, ground goat, and ground chicken; farm-raised fish and shellfish; wild fish and shellfish; and other listed products be labeled as to its origin. (More on COOL is provided in a later section on labeling.)

Additional requirements or prohibitions may be made on the importation of various products into the United States or export of meat products from the United States to other countries. For example, meat from cattle being imported from Canada into the United States must be tested for BSE.

Imported products are addressed in Part 327:

Exports are addressed in Part 322:

For the specifics of import and export, farmers are encouraged to consult with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the USDA.

Religious Exemptions, Certifications, and Cultural Practices

Some cultures have very strict meat handling requirements. Muslim consumers require their meats to be “Halal” or “lawful” to their religious scriptures. For many Muslims, this means it should be slaughtered using “zabiha” methods. Halal requires that the animal must be humanely killed by an adult Muslim. However, some Muslims will accept Kosher killed meats (especially if Halal is unavailable) and some will accept meat killed by a Christian butcher.

During a zabiha kill, the animal faces Mecca and the Takbir (a blessing invoking the name of Allah, the Muslim word for “God”) is pronounced while the animal is killed without stunning – by holding it’s head back and using a quick, single continuous cut across the throat just below the jawbone to sever the windpipe, esophagus, arteries and veins forward of the neck bone. Ideally, the knife blade should be extremely sharp and twice as long as the width of the animal’s neck. A hand guard is permitted for safety.

Muslims view any livestock that has consumed any pork products (including lard or blood meal) to be unclean. Other feeds that might be categorized as “filth” may also lead to rejection of the animal. A 40-day period prior to slaughter of “clean” feed will generally suffice.

Customers who are Orthodox Jews require that livestock be Kosher killed. The animal is killed without stunning by a specially trained religious Orthodox Jew using a properly sharpened special knife with no hand guard, who subsequently inspects the carcass and organs for defects.

If the meat is to be certified as “Glatt Kosher”, a stricter Kosher standard, the carcass from a small animal such as a sheep must have no lung adhesions. Animals that are exposed to conditions predisposing them to pneumonia (i.e. poor ventilation, overcrowding, etc.) are most likely to have lung adhesions.

The sciatic nerve and various veins, fats and blood are prohibited from Kosher consumption and must be removed. In most cases, rather than going through the difficult procedure of removing the sciatic nerve in the hindquarter, only the forequarter is marketed as Kosher and the hindquarter is sold through other marketing channels.

Federally inspected slaughterhouses need to apply for a “religious exemption” from stunning to conduct Halal and Kosher slaughter. Unlike the “poultry exemptions” or the “custom exemption”, this is not an exemption from federal inspection of the carcass; rather it exempts the plant from having to stun the animal prior to death.

The animal should either be killed on the ground (allowable only for custom or on-farm slaughter), straddled, or walked onto a double rail for a religious kill – because it is considered inhumane to hoist and shackled the animal by its hind legs while still alive. Research has shown that ruminant animals remain very calm when their body’s weight is supported by a “double rail”. However, the handling and preparation for the ritual falls within the ritual exemption. Therefore, if hanging the animal live is part of the ritual then it is allowed because the handling and preparation falls within the ritual exemption.

Although there are national certification programs for Kosher and Halal processed foods, there is no national mandatory labeling and certification for Halal or Kosher meats. For the most part, it is a farmer’s responsibility to insure that their meat meets their customers’ definitions of Halal or Kosher. New York does have laws pertaining to Halal and Kosher certification records.

Information about the availability of double rail slaughter systems for large commercial operations is available on the web at

New York’s Kosher Law Protection Act of 2004

This law requires that consumers of food represented as Kosher in New York be provided with information identifying the person or organization who is certifying that food as Kosher. All producers, processors, packers, distributors and retailers distributing or offering for sale food certified as Kosher are required to be registered.

Anyone marketing or distributing Kosher food, operating a food establishment, or preparing Kosher food will need to fill out a Kosher Certification Form, which is filed with NYSDAM. These certifiers must have on file with NYSDAM the name, address and phone number of the person or organization providing them with Kosher certification. Persons certifying non-prepackaged foods as Kosher must put a statement of their qualifications for certifying food as Kosher on file with NYSDAM. The statement should include background, training, education, experience, and any other information that shows the Kosher certifier’s qualifications. These certifications must be displayed at the establishment where the Kosher business is being conducted.

The responsibility for registering the person or organization who certifies a food as Kosher and for filing information about products offered for sale as Kosher depends on whether or not the food is in packaged form. A food is in packaged form when it is not intended to be consumed at the point of manufacture and is packaged in advance of sale in units suitable for retail sale. If the food is in packaged form, the producer or distributor must register the name, address, and phone number of the person who certified the food as Kosher with NYSDAM. If the food is not in packaged form, the person who manufactures, processes, packs or sells it must register the name, address and phone number of the Kosher certifier with NYSDAM. Filings must be done 30 days in advance of offering or distributing food as Kosher in New York.

Information on New York’s Kosher Law Protection Act of 2004 is available on line at:

To file a form electronically, visit and electronically file or update the information required by the Act. Forms can also be obtained by mail by calling 718-722-2852 and making that request.

New York’s Halal Foods Protection Act of 2005

This act requires certain businesses and individuals to register or file with NYSDAM information as to the person or organization that is certifying their products as Halal. Manufacturers, producers, packers and distributors, of all food, including meat, which is certified as Halal must register their company with NYSDAM and file the name, address, and phone number of the person, (e.g. individual, corporation, partnership, association or organization), who certifies the food as Halal. Certifying individuals, partnerships, associations or organizations need to complete a separate General Information and Statement of Qualification forms. Firms that utilize their own employees or personnel to certify product need to have those employees complete General Information and Statement of Qualification forms. Any advertisement for food or food products representing the products as Halal shall identify the name of the person or entity certifying the product as Halal.

Food establishments, food retailers, restaurants, caterers, and food carts who sell food prepared on their premises or under their control, which is represented as Halal, must post, at their business in a location readily visible by consumers and file with NYSDAM, a Halal Certification Form. Retail stores that sell both Halal and Non-Halal foods require a window sign, with block letters at least four inches in height, that states “HALAL AND NON-HALAL MEAT SOLD HERE” or “HALAL AND NON-HALAL FOOD SOLD HERE.”

Wholesale and retail firms that purchase Halal meat and poultry or food products that include meat and poultry shall retain the invoices or bill of sales for those products for a period of two years. Meat and poultry or food products that include meat and poultry are exempt from this record keeping if the manufacturer’s or packer’s name, address and certifying person are listed on the package containers.

More information, including certification forms, can be located at the NYSDAM website at: The registry is listed under the Division of Food Safety and Inspection. Persons with questions on how to complete the forms, those who wish to submit the required information in print form, and individuals who need paper forms sent to them should call the NYSDAM Division of Food Safety & Inspection Albany office at 518-457-8835.

Cultural Practices

Certain African, Caribbean, and Oriental cultures prefer carcasses to be scalded or singed as part of the processing procedure. A federally inspected slaughterhouse that plans to conduct scalding or singeing needs to include these procedures in the mandatory hazard analysis portion of their HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plan.

Federal, State, or Custom: What is the Difference?

Not all meat-processing facilities are the same. It is important to know the different types of slaughter and processing plants operating in the United States and more importantly for farmers, the markets they are allowed to process for. The following section describes these various facilities. Not all of these slaughtering and processing plants are available in New York.

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.

USDA Inspected Meat Processing Facilities

The USDA issues a “grant of inspection” to approved facilities; USDA facilities for this reason are not “licensed” but “inspected”. USDA inspected meat processing facilities that have been issued a “grant of inspection” may butcher and/or process amenable livestock or poultry under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. A USDA plant must conform to the “Code of Federal Regulations for Animals and Animal Products”.

This code is available in the Title 9 portion (revised Jan ’01) of the code on the NARA (National Archives & Records Administration) website. The current address is

Federal meat inspection requires that a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspector inspect the carcasses at a USDA inspected slaughterhouse. The inspector must verify that the establishment address all federal regulations outlined in the code. He must verify not only that the carcass is wholesome but also that the facilities, equipment and procedures conform to the owner’s approved SSOP or SPS plan. The inspector also monitors employees to see if they are following the plant’s HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plan. Currently, the salary of this inspector is paid for by federal tax dollars.

There are strict federal mandates regarding the 1) health of the animals permitted to enter the plant; 2) care of the animals at the plant; 3) parts of the animal that can be used for human consumption; and 4) disposal of animal parts not used for human consumption.

Inspected meat from these USDA inspected plants can be sold anywhere in the United States and exported to sell or trade in international markets.

In general, the physical requirements for a USDA inspected slaughterhouse are that

1)      Facilities and equipment must be validated by owner’s SSOP or SPS plan to be hygienic.

2)       In general, a wholesome plant is required to have

  1. easily cleanable equipment
  2. washable, nonporous walls and ceilings
  3. lack of condensation
  4. appropriate rail heights
  5. sufficient drains
  6. sufficient lighting (50 ft candle lights in the processing area)
  7. floor plan that keeps livestock and livestock contaminated material well separated from inspected meat
  8. well running and appropriate coolers, rails, drains and hooks
  9. sufficient septic or municipal sewage facilities
  10. pest control
  11. potable water

3)      It must have employee welfare facilities (lunch locker, bathroom)

4)      It must have inspection facilities (private room with filing cabinet and chair; bathroom facilities can be shared with employees).

5)      Livestock must be stunned prior to slaughter unless the plant has a religious exemption.

There are some conditions where meat is exempted from having to conform to all or part of this code. These “exemptions” are listed later in the resource guide.

Some states hold their USDA inspected facilities to stricter regulations than what is outlined in the federal code. According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Food Safety and Inspection Division, New York generally follows the letter of the federal code.

State or Local Inspected “Custom Exempt” Slaughterhouses

A custom exempt slaughterhouse may offer slaughtering services without federal inspection and oversight. The federal code provides for this exemption and allows the owner of an animal to forgo having the animal slaughtered under federal or state inspection if the meat and byproducts from that animal are consumed by the owner and his or her household – as opposed to being sold. Carcasses at these slaughterhouses are exempt from federal inspection because these plants are limited only to custom slaughter and processing. Carcasses and meat leaving custom slaughterhouses are not inspected and must be stamped “Not for Sale”.

Custom exempt slaughter is a service provided only to an animal’s owner. In New York, a person does not have to be present to take ownership of an animal. For example, if a farmer or live animal market sells live animals for the freezer trade, a household consumer can take ownership of the animal over the phone and have the animal delivered to a custom slaughterhouse for butchering and processing according to their directions. The farmer or live animal market needs to know the new owner’s name and address and the animal must be clearly identified throughout the slaughter/processing operations so that the products the owner receives are from the animal that was selected by or for them.

Custom exempt slaughterhouses are not to be confused with state licensed plants that undergo state inspection of carcasses for intrastate sales. They also should not be confused with whitetail butcher shops, which only process hunter harvested wild deer, and come under the jurisdiction in New York, by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Some custom slaughterhouses have not applied to have an approved kill floor and are also set up primarily to process white tail deer for hunters who harvest those animals within the state. (Hunter harvested deer carcasses cannot cross state lines without first being butchered to the imported state’s specification. In many cases, this means complete de-boning.)

Carcasses are not inspected under custom slaughter. However, custom exempt facilities are inspected periodically. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has jurisdiction over all amenable red meat processing in the United States. The USDA  may however opt to subcontract out inspection of custom facilities. In 2010 inspection of custom facilities was once again undertaken by the USDA FSIS directly, but prior to that they had been contracting the work out to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM). This has added more administration and paperwork for processors, and created some confusion and concern as to the level of the inspection undertaken.

The Division of Food Safety and Inspection is responsible for locating inspectors to inspect slaughtering and processing facilities. Inspectors may be temporarily assigned or rotated throughout a region.

Some basic requirements of a custom slaughterhouse are 1) washable walls and floors (for example, painted concrete), 2) kill floor located in a separate area from processing, 3) drains equipped with a back-flush system, and 4) hot water capability of 170º F (for melting poultry fat).

Federal guidelines can and do change; thus one of the first steps in opening a custom slaughterhouse in NY is to contact NYSDAM Division of Food Safety Inspection. Local health departments are also involved because they must approve the slaughterhouse septic system prior to opening and will be responsible for testing any well water to validate it as potable twice yearly.

DUAL LICENSES for Custom Exempt and 5-A Slaughtering

Hanging carcasses and frozen product of inspected and non-inspected product must be separated. This can be accomplished by designated areas within the cooler and freezer for each type of product.

At one time, an establishment may have held dual licenses for custom exempt operations and a NYSDMA 5-A activities within a singular, shared establishment; but in recent years this dual licensing is no longer being permitted without full seperation. According to NYSDAM  this doesn’t have to require separate facilities, but may simply involve separation of the two activities, by room layout as the floor plan demonstrates. In this case both the 5-A facility and the custom exempt facility can share the processing room.  The processing room may also be eligible for licensing as a 20-C establishment.

Hanging carcasses and frozen product of inspected and non-inspected product must be separated. This can be accomplished by designated areas within the cooler and freezer for each type of product.

5-A Non-Amenable Slaughtering and Processing Facilities

These are specialized state licensed facilities that conduct butchering and/or processing operations that are exempt from federal inspection but require NY licenses in order to operate. One type of 5-A classification is for plants that process non-amenable farm raised game species (bison, farmed deer, rabbits, etc). Non-amenable livestock and poultry species can be slaughtered at a 5-A licensed plant without federal inspection.

Products manufactured from this facility may be offered for sale by the farmer who raised them. The slaughterhouse may also buy the meat from the farmer and market it themselves in a meat shop affiliated with the slaughterhouse or sell the meat to a wholesaler or retail outlet.

The meat can be sold within state or across state lines but must be sold directly to an end consumer or a restaurant, hotel, boarding house, caterer or similar retail business. Both states must agree to the transaction. Some states, in an effort to protect their wild game populations and protect their own game meat industries, have opted not to allow product into their state from outside of it. For example, Vermont does not permit farm-raised deer carcasses from NY to come into the state.

If the meat is processed by mixing it with meat or fat from a conventional (amenable) livestock species or if the meat is cured using nitrate then further restrictions may apply.

The carcasses are not inspected, though the owner/operator of the 5-A facility has the right to reject a carcass or product. All non-amenable species must also have certified health papers from the farmer’s veterinarian stating that the animals are in good health and are eligible to enter the food chain.

The 5-A facilities are inspected by state employees and are held to a higher standard than conventional custom plants. For example hot water must be 180ºF. A blue print or schematic of the plant must be submitted and approved prior to licensing. HACCP plans documenting the handling of products for resale may be required.

An example of a 5-A non-amenable slaughtering and processing facility floor plan as provided by NYSDAM.

5-A Poultry Slaughtering and Processing Facilities

Another 5-A classification is granted for plants that slaughter and/or process amenable poultry under circumstances that allow them to be exempt from federal inspection. There are several allowable exemptions important to poultry growers wanting to market their own birds themselves within state to household consumers, retail stores, restaurants, and distributors. These exemptions are also important to live poultry markets and to custom processors.

The many poultry exemptions vary with regard to how many birds can be processed, who the birds can be processed for, the type of processing that can be done, and what market channels the resulting poultry products can be sold through. Generally, a plant is permitted to operate under only one poultry exemption. Therefore, poultry growers should study the exemptions carefully to choose the exemption that best meets their needs.

5-A Facility Design and  Location

Separate Killing and Evisceration rooms are required in NYSDAM licensed 5-A facilities. If further cutting, a separate processing and packaging room is required. A 2 or 3 bay equipment was sink should be located in the eviscerating room. Hand-wash sinks are required in the killing room and eviscerating room. A hand-wash sink is also required in the separate processing room. Separating walls are required, time and distance are not enough. There are no provisions under Article 5-A allowing time as separation; Physical separation is required.

If poultry crates or cages are stored at a facility, a separate area for cleaning and storage must be provided. This can be a separate shed

The 1500’ limitation separating a processing plant from a dwelling only applies to facilities in cities with one-million or more residents. Therefore, the limitations are unlikely to affect most of the 50 or so 5-A facilities located in upstate NY.

20-C Meat Processing Facilities

These facilities are New York state licensed commercial kitchens. They cannot slaughter livestock or poultry. Instead, they are permitted to further process 1) red meat that was butchered, inspected, and passed at a USDA slaughterhouse or 2) poultry under a legally accepted federal exemption or non-amenable meats properly slaughtered at a 5-A facility.

Processing operations are limited to those activities that are usually conducted at retail stores, restaurants, and caterers. This would include dividing carcasses or wholesale cuts into retail cuts, cutting, slicing, trimming, grinding, freezing, breaking up bulk shipments, and wrapping or rewrapping.

The holder of the establishment’s 20-C license can then sell these products to consumers including instate restaurants, hotels and institutions as long as 1) the sale amount does not exceed a “normal retail quantity” and 2) sales to consumers other than household consumers do not exceed a) 25% of the total value of total sales of product, and b) the dollar limitation per calendar year set by the FSIS Administrator every year and published in the Federal Register. Essentially 20-C establishments are permitted to retail product but are not allowed to wholesale product.

A 20-C commercial kitchen is also permitted to further process meat and poultry by curing, cooking, and smoking. They may also render and refine fat. However, the holder of the 20-C license is then limited to selling the value added products directly to household consumers rather than to restaurants, hotels and other institutions.

Direct sales to household consumers can take place from the retail establishment adjoining the commercial kitchen or at the license holder’s farm (for example, from an on-farm farm stand). Direct sales to consumers can also take place from the farm’s produce or food stall at a public farmers’ market.

A commercial kitchen can also further process custom exempt meats and poultry products for the products’ owners. However, the processed products cannot be sold and must be consumed solely by the product’s household and nonpaying guests and employees. The custom prepared products must be kept separate from all “For Sale” product at all times and must be clearly marked “Not for Sale” immediately after being prepared and packaged.

At the discretion of the NYSDAM Division of Food Safety & Inspection, multiple 20-C licenses can be held for a single commercial kitchen facility. The facility and its staff can be employed or rented out by one or more other businesses. However, each business must have a separately scheduled time for facility use. The granting of multiple licenses is on a case-by-case basis.

The Food Venture maintains a list of commercial kitchens in New York at:

An on-line Article 20-C application can be accessed at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets at:

Meat Lockers

Meat lockers are an option for farmers who need to age product or store a quantity of product. If farmers are considering their own cutting or sausage making, and can find a USDA kill floor and a 20-C kitchen, then locker space for fresh-chilled or frozen product becomes a concern. Each business using the meat locker needs separate space with their own lock, perhaps separated by wire mesh. Alternatively, the locker needs to employ a manager who is responsible for managing product movement. The locker is required to obtain an Article 19 warehouse license, or locker license.

Other Types of Slaughter Houses Not Available in New York


A retail exemption allows a meat processor to sell meat at its own retail storefront without developing a HACCP plan. However, the processor is still subject to periodic inspection by USDA FSIS and/or state authorities. The meat used to manufacture retail products (fresh cuts or processed meats) must come from livestock inspected by USDA FSIS or the state inspection agency in the same state as the processor. 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. Retail-exempt wholesaling is limited to 25% of the dollar value of the processor’s total sales or as of May 2008, $56,900 for red meat and meat products and $44,700 for poultry products per calendar year, whichever is less.

Talmadge-Aiken Meat Plants

These are federally inspected slaughterhouses where state employees following federal mandates do the inspections. States on the east coast that contain Talmadge-Aiken meat plants are Delaware (10), Maryland (21), Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Inspected meat from these plants can be sold across state lines. New York has no Talmadge-Aiken plants.

State Licensed USDA Equivalent Slaughterhouses

These plants have been granted state licenses for state inspection of carcasses. These plants are very similar to USDA plants. However, inspectors working at these facilities are paid for by state tax dollars. They inspect carcasses and facilities for compliance with state rather than federal regulations. They are held to standards equal but not necessarily identical to federally inspected plants. Inspected meat from these plants can be sold within state for intrastate commerce but not out-of-state (interstate commerce). However, select state licensed USDA equivalent plants will be permitted to sell their products across state lines starting in 2010. Vermont, West Virginia, Ohio, and now even Maine operate state licensed USDA equivalent plants. New York no longer operates any such plants. Although there is appreciable interest on the part of NY farmers in resuming state inspection, a serious barrier to this option is the cost of hiring more inspectors

This listing is available on line at:

Inspection Determination
Flow Chart for Amenable Red Meat

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