WASHINGTON, D.C. — Meat and dairy farmer Kenya Abraham of Slak Market Farm says the pandemic and social distancing measures that led to economic distress have made the challenges of small farmers more pronounced.
"If I have a cow and I want to process my bull, it’s illegal for me to go to a custom slaughterhouse and this is a facility where these animals are butchered professionally, package that meat, now I’ve got 400 pounds of hamburger and some steaks. I cannot sell to you if you came to my farm store for a package of hamburger," said Abraham over Skype from her farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
Northern Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie's (R-4) Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act also known as the PRIME Act speaks to this concern by expanding the exemption of custom slaughtering of animals from federal inspection requirements.
"It would allow these farmers that are having to euthanize their animals to use a non-USDA facility to get the food and farm product to consumers in their own states," said Massie.
"If it is a safety issue, why am I allowed to give it to you for free? It’s really not a safety issue. It’s about money and these larger facilities have lobbyists and people working for them to help make these laws," said Abraham.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says they do comment on pending legislation.
"It is important to note that with a cooperative agreement with FSIS, states may currently operate their own meat and poultry inspection (MPI) programs if they meet and enforce requirements 'at least equal to' those imposed under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, Poultry Products Inspection Act and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978. State-inspected meat and poultry products are limited to intrastate commerce only," said an FSIS spokesperson.
"What the USDA does is they give farmers the false impression that the food is safe. In reality, the food from the custom slaughterhouses is much safer," said Massie.
Under the PRIME Act, farmers could also produce food for restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and other establishments in their state.
"It’s clear we need to redefine for them what small scale processing is," said Abraham.