1967 Wholesome Meat Act: Disaster for Small Slaughterhouses

Passage of the PRIME Act [H.R. 5859 / S. 1620] would give states the power to legalize the sale of custom processed meat in intrastate commerce (i.e., meat from an animal slaughtered and processed at a facility where an inspector is not required to be present to observe the slaughtering and conduct an ante mortem and post mortem inspection of the animal).

Currently, federal law prohibits the sale of custom processed meat; the prohibition went into effect with the passage of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967. The Act mandated that meat could not be sold unless it was slaughtered and processed at a facility that was either federally inspected or one inspected in a state whose meat inspection laws were at least as strict as the federal requirements; meat slaughtered and processed at a state facility could only be sold within the state.

The Wholesome Meat Act has done tremendous damage to local slaughterhouse infrastructure around the country. In 1967 there were nearly 10,000 slaughterhouses in the country1; today there are less than 3,000.2*

The bottleneck caused by the lack of slaughterhouses has frustrated small livestock operations in getting their products to market and has led to an inability to meet the overall demand for locally produced meat. The 1967 Act has been one of the worst laws ever passed for local food; what’s more, it was known from the beginning that the Act would have the effect it did.

On September 16, 1971, the Small Business Administration (SBA) presented a paper to the United States Senate Select Committee on Small Business titled: “The Effects of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 upon Small Business – A Study of One Industry’s Economic Problems Resulting from Environmental-Consumer Legislation Prepared by the Small Business Administration.”3

The SBA paper3 discusses the cost of compliance (mainly, the costs of facility upgrades) with the requirements of the Act and the effects it could have on small-scale slaughterhouses and processing plants. The paper includes the following comments:

  • “[I]t could be argued that the Wholesome Meat Act was as much of a disaster for many small meat firms as a hurricane….” [p. 32]

  • During the Congressional deliberations in 1967 over the Wholesome Meat Act, there was little discussion of the effects that the Wholesome Meat Act would have upon those 15,000 or so firms who now would be subject to rigorous inspection of their product. [p.31]

  • Emphasis was upon “consumerism”, the American housewife and her family. And this was “consumerism” in a rather narrow sense. There was little or no consideration given to the costs, particularly in the first few years, that would have to be borne by the meat industries in order to comply with the Wholesome Meat Act. “…[I]t was likely that meat prices would increase for several years, because of the Act. Scant attention was paid to this highly important problem during the Congressional consideration of the Wholesome Meat Act.” [p. 31]

  • Nor was much attention paid to the potential effects of the new law upon competition within the meat industries. “[T]he meat industries are among the more competitive in the American economy. But the Wholesome Meat Act could lead to a significant diminution of competition. How many firms would have to shut down because they could no longer compete due to the new law? … Would the Wholesome Act lead, however unwittingly, to an undesirable increase in concentration in the meat industries? Questions such as these, highly fundamental questions, were barely raised during the legislative process.” [p. 31]

  • The SBA report notes that following passage of the Wholesome Meat Act, legislation was introduced in Congress that would have allowed SBA disaster loans for slaughterhouses attempting to become compliant with the Act if the slaughterhouse’s financial need could not be met “by private financial institutions or by regular Government credit programs.”  As recorded in the report, “the SBA disaster fund ‘is based upon the legal principle that the emergency is created by the act of the sovereign U.S. Government which is beyond the control of the individual business. This may cause major losses to the businessman, particularly if the company is forced out of business. The sovereign act is thus similar to a natural disaster…’” [p.33]

  • “We find that the small business concerns affected by the Act need a substantial amount of financial assistance in effecting compliance with the Wholesome Meat Act. The establishments not in conformance with the Wholesome Meat Act say they need $278.6 million to make the improvements needed to conform to the law. Of this amount, the establishments surveyed say $132.2 million is unavailable. In addition, fully one-third of the establishments not in conformance with the Act report that financing is unavailable…. We find that the amount that may be forthcoming from private financial institutions is seriously deficient.” [p.84]

  • “The Wholesome Meat Act only directly affects strictly intrastate producers whose production at the most is 20-25 percent of the total national products of meat. Of this intrastate group, slightly less than half are not in conformance with the Wholesome Meat Act and probably about one-third or so of the group not in conformance will go out of business if some form of Federal loan program is not developed for their benefit.” [p. 86]

  • “The authors think the empirical evidence contained in this report points inevitably to the conclusion that many firms will suffer substantial economic injury without Federal assistance. In fact, many face terminal economic injury without some form of Government relief.” [p.87]

Much of what the SBA report questioned about the Wholesome Meat Act has come to pass. The Act did contribute significantly to the consolidation of the meat industry; today four companies control over 80% of beef processing in the U.S. and four companies control over 60% of pork processing.4

The inability to comply with costly federal requirements has led to thousands of slaughter and processing facilities going out of business; many of these were small facilities processing only for commerce within the state. These facilities might have been accountable for only 20-25 percent of national meat products but they gave the small livestock farmer much better access to slaughterhouses at a better price than is the case today. The local abattoirs that dotted the country are mostly gone. Passage of the PRIME Act can begin the process of bringing them back.

The Wholesome Meat Act has not led to the production of safer meat today; there are more recalls than ever for positive pathogen tests in meat products. The 1967 Act has also contributed to higher meat prices as the writers of the SBA report predicted; the higher costs with expanded federal regulation have been passed on to the consumer. The Wholesome Meat Act has failed small-scale slaughterhouses, family farms, consumers and communities on numerous levels.

It’s time to start the process of rolling it back by passing the PRIME Act. Call you representative and ask that they sign on as a cosponsor of HR 2859 / S 1620.

ACTION ALERT 5/6/2020 – Help pass the PRIME Act – Call today!

1 Denny, R.C.H. (2012). Between the Farm and the Farmer’s Market: Slaughterhouses, Regulations, and Alternative Food Networks (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from Auburn University AUETD database, https://etd.auburn.edu/handle/10415/3247*

2 United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Livestock Slaughter 2019 Summary. April 2020. p. 62. Posted at http://www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/lsan0415.pdf [View PDF – http://bit.ly/1i6sxS9]

3 United States. Small Business Administration, and United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Small Business. The Effects of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 Upon Small Business: A Study of One Industry’s Economic Problems Resulting from Environmental-Consumer Legislation. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1971.

4 Heffernan, W. & Hendrickson, M. (2007). Concentration of agricultural markets. University of Missouri, Department of Rural Sociology. Posted online at http://www.foodcircles.missouri.edu/07contable.pdf [View PDF – http://bit.ly/1JZuqGf

Reprinted by permission of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund from article originally posted September 10, 2015, titled “The Wholesome Meat Act of 1967: Disaster for Small Slaughterhouses from the Start“. Republished here with minor edits.

Raw Butter and Raw Cream Sales Now Legal in Utah

On March 25, Governor Gary Hebert signed House Bill 134 (HB 134) into law. The bill legalizes the sale of raw butter and raw cream in Utah; HB 134 took effect immediately. Representative Kim Coleman (R) was the lead sponsor for the legislation.

With the Utah law taking effect, there are now around twenty states that allow the sale or distribution of raw cream for human consumption; around a dozen states allow the sale or distribution of raw butter. There are at least two other states considering the legalization of raw butter sales.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains the greatest roadblock to the legalization of raw dairy products in the U.S. On February 27, FDA rejected a petition to lift the interstate ban on raw butter filed by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and Mark McAfee, the biggest producer of raw butter and cream in the country. In its rejection letter, one of the agency’s justifications for maintaining the prohibition was that raw butter was responsible for a foodborne illness outbreak occurring on average every 7 or 8 years; a standard that, if applied consistently across our food supply, would make many foods illegal in interstate commerce. As time goes on, an increasing number of states will no longer side with FDA, taking matters into their own hands by legalizing sales of raw dairy products in intrastate commerce.

HB 134 marks the third time in the last five years that a Utah raw milk bill has passed into law. In 2015, the mother-daughter team of Symbria and Sara Patterson were mainly responsible for the passage of a law legalizing the distribution of raw milk and raw milk products through micro-dairy herd share agreements. In 2018, Red Acre Center, a nonprofit formed by the Pattersons, was the driver in passing a law allowing the unlicensed on-farm sale of raw milk and the delivery of raw milk by licensed dairies. A bill similar to HB 134 nearly passed in the 2019 session; under the new law, licensed dairies can sell raw butter and raw cream on the farm, through delivery, and at a retail store if the dairy has a majority ownership interest in the store.

The passage of HB 134 comes at a time when, with the Covid-19 situation, demand for food direct from the farm is soaring. Legal raw butter and cream will move more of the food dollar to where it belongs–at the farms producing some of the safest, most nitrient-dense foods available.

Graphics credit: Jon Tyson, neon lit butter sign at unsplash.com

Weston A. Price Foundation Fights USDA On Raw Milk Cheese Restrictions

The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) has petitioned the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (USDA) to ease its pursuit of stricter, unnecessary restrictions on raw milk cheeses.

In August 2015, the USDA invited the public to submit commentary on “potential intervention measures to reduce the risk of foodborne illness” stemming from unpasteurized cheeses.

Along with its comments to the USDA, WAPF included lengthy scientific research on the safety of unpasteurized cheeses, and pointed out that most of the outbreaks attributed to these cheeses come from raw, unaged cheeses – which are illegal to sell in this country. In other countries, some cheeses produced from raw milk are a popular export and cultural staple, like Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano, which can only legally bear that name if it is made from raw milk.

Read more about what Weston A. Price Foundation President Sally Fallon Morell has to say on the issue in the organization’s official press release here.

To learn more about raw milk and other nutrient dense foods, visit westonaprice.org

Michael Schmidt Faces New Charges

Canadian Hero, Michael Schmidt, Sees Mounting Court Costs; Community Shows Solidarity in Peaceful Non-Compliance

Michael Schmidt is one of the most well-known and well-respected names in the real food movement. Schmidt has faced years of legal harassment for his peaceful production of raw milk and for feeding his community.

Three years ago on December 6, Schmidt was charged in connection to the Shropshire sheep case. The legal battle is ongoing and Michael faces up to 10 years in prison for his involvement in the protection of healthy sheep (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency threatened to kill them). The legal battle is ongoing and financially devastating. Please donate to the legal fees to help keep Michael out of prison.

As though the charges against him for helping to temporarily save the sheep were not enough, a multi-agency task force recently raided Glencolton farm leading to additional charges against Michael and four other farm owners.

Schmidt also faces charges for removing surveillance cameras that the Ministry of Natural Resources placed just outside his driveway to spy on anyone going to or from the farm. Schmidt states “I am convinced that these charges about the cameras are some sort of revenge…They don’t like the fact that I continue to peacefully feed my community. They are using the judicial system to prolong their harassment of a peaceful farmer.”

Led by Michael Schmidt, many Canadians recently gathered at Queens Park in Toronto to sign a “Declaration of Food Rights” which states that they are willing to suffer the legal consequences rather than stop procuring raw milk from the producers of their choice.

It seems that, fundamentally, Michael Schmidt is standing for the choice of people to procure the foods of their choice from the producer of their choice while the government continues to use harassment as a means of stifling these connections.

To learn more about raw milk and other nutrient dense foods, visit westonaprice.org

International Raw Milk Symposium Livestream on November 16, 2015

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The annual International Raw Milk Symposium, which will discuss the health benefits and safety practices of raw milk, can be viewed via Livestream on Monday, November 16th beginning at 9:15am PDT.

With consumption of raw milk on the rise and several states loosening sales restrictions, more and more consumers are becoming curious about raw milk and their options for obtaining it.

The Raw Milk Symposium will take place on the last day of the International Wise Traditions Conference, a widely attended annual nutrition conference. Headline speakers of the Raw Milk Symposium include:

Sally Fallon Morell: “Why Raw Milk?” (9:15-10:30am PDT)

Mark McAfee: “Behind the Scenes: What’s Really Happening with Raw Milk in the USA?” (10:45am-12:00pm PDT)

Peg Coleman: “Risk Beyond Numbers: Understanding Data, Gaps and Assumptions Bridging Them” (1:15-2:30pm PDT)

Charlotte Smith: “Building, Managing, Marketing and Sustaining a Raw Milk Micro-Dairy” (2:45-4:00pm PDT)

To watch the livestream: http://www.fleetwoodonsite.com/wise/rawmilk#sthash.JfaVOOMo.dpuf

Support the Campaign for Real Milk, join the Weston A. Price Foundation, today!

South Dakota Senate Passes Raw Milk Bill

The South Dakota State Senate has passed a bill that would put raw milk in the same regulatory category as Grade A milk and manufacturing-grade milk, making raw milk a legal product as it will be more easily regulated by the state.

Senate Bill 45 is the result of the hard work of a Raw Milk Work Group that was formed in February 2014 following the recommendation of the South Dakota Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The work group included Department of Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch and other department representatives, dairy industry representatives, and raw milk producers and consumers. (See South Dakota Raw Milk Wins–Dakota Rural)

The passing of Senate Bill 45 means that raw milk and raw cream will be legal for sale directly to consumers (though only for delivery at farmers’ markets), through a distinct set of rules for the sale of raw milk for human consumption. Raw milk producers will still need to obtain a license and permit, must maintain sales records for notification purposes, and their facilities will still be subject to annual inspection by the Department of Agriculture.

Realmilk.com is a consumer education project of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. Visit their website, westonaprice.org.

The Washington Post Sheds Light on the Raw Milk Community in DC Area

The Washington Post recently published an article that asks how far fans of raw milk will go to get it. By profiling various raw milk drinkers in the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, the article sheds light on a community of health-conscious consumers who value freedom of choice over possible persecution from their state governments.

While one family went so far as to move to a 66-acre farm and purchase 3 milking cows, other families have sought alternative ways to access farm-fresh, raw milk. Many Virginians participate in cow share programs, in which members pay to own a portion of the herd in order to gain access to the herd’s milk as owners. Maryland doesn’t allow cow share programs, and D.C. has no cows to be shared. Instead, many D.C. drinkers use buying clubs or “citizens associations” to hire a driver from Pennsylvania to deliver milk to their neighborhoods.

One D.C. raw milk drinker says that her initial departure “…from processed foods for her family didn’t take her much farther than the Whole Foods Market near her Adams Morgan home. Then, after committing to one food tenet, then more – local meat, local eggs, no genetically modified foods – raw milk became the ‘next step.’”

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the nutrition education non-profit, The Weston A. Price Foundation. Donate to help fund research into the benefits of nutrient dense foods.  http://www.westonaprice.org/lab

UK’s Food Standards Agency Still Reviewing Raw Milk Guidelines: Input Needed

On February 3, 2014 the UK’s Food Standards Agency published proposals that would continue to allow farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers at their farms, farmers markets and over the internet, but would prohibit wider retail sales, including vending machines at grocery stores.

The FSA began reviewing raw milk standards in October 2013, following a high profile prosecution against a dairy farmer who sold raw milk through a vending machine in Selfridges’ department stores. The FSA’s review covered England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (the sale of raw milk is banned in Scotland).

After four months of review, the FSA “…does not believe the regulations need changing, but businesses and those who enforce the rules need greater clarity on what is acceptable,” says Steve Wearne, Head of Policy at the FSA (Dairy Reporter). Dairy UK, the largest “Big Dairy” lobbying group, has called to outlaw all raw milk sales and there is some concern that the FSA’s final review will include an option to require that all milk is pasteurized before going on sale, therefore completely banning raw milk.

However, as part of the consultation, the FSA has invited members of the public to share their views on raw milk. Click here to share your support of raw milk.

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the nutrition education non-profit, The Weston A. Price Foundation. Donate to help fund research into the benefits of nutrient dense foods.  http://www.westonaprice.org/lab

Welcome to the brand new realmilk.com blog!

We are looking to have this blog share your stories about raw milk. If you have a raw milk testimonial, a photo of your farm, an ode to a dairy cow, or even a raw milk ditty on video, please submit it for consideration by email to press@westonaprice.org.

Also, if you are a health professional that has found raw milk to be an adjunct to other healing modalities, we would love to invite you to submit a guest blog.

And, stay tuned for raw milk news, updates, recipes!

Kimberly Hartke, Publicist
The Campaign for Real Milk
a project of The Weston A. Price Foundation