PRIME Act Now — Demand Overwhelms Slaughterhouses

If anyone needed evidence on the importance of passing the PRIME Act (H.R.2859 / S.1620), the bill enables states to pass laws allowing the sale of meat from an animal slaughtered and processed at a custom facility), the logjam at slaughterhouses around the U.S. should provide it. Federally inspected slaughterhouses, state-inspected slaughterhouses, and custom facilities around the country are stretched beyond capacity. With the COVID-19 crisis triggering a shift in demand from industrial to locally produced meat and the concerns about food security leading to increased stocking, the market demand for local meat has never been greater. Compounding the strain on slaughterhouses is the demand from livestock farmers that previously sold to the major meat packers until they lost that business in the shutdown or slowdown of the country‘s biggest processing plants.

There are USDA slaughterhouses around the country now booking into 2022; many custom houses are taking reservations for well into 2021. It is not uncommon for livestock producers who were able to get a slaughter date two or three months out are now having to book eight months or more in advance. More farmers are considering whether to construct a custom facility on their own land. Under federal law, which states are required to follow, farmers can slaughter animals they have raised without regulation as long as the meat from the slaughter only goes to the farmer’s family, non-paying guests and employees. If anyone else obtains meat from an on-farm slaughtered animal, the farmer must comply with federal regulations governing custom slaughter and processing.

A number of states have taken steps during COVID-19 to increase the meat supply. In May, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce issued an emergency regulation lifting the restriction on the number of owners there could be for a custom processed animal.1 Prior to the emergency rule (which will be converted into a permanent rule sometime this summer), there was a limit of four owners per custom animal; now a farmer can distribute beef direct to the consumer without limitation on the number of individual owners. Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson said Mississippi residents wanting to buy local beef or pork “can buy a share in that animal whatever the farmer wants to sell” or however he wants to divide it up.2 The new rule is in line with USDA’s position that federal regulations do not set a limit on the number of owners there can be for a custom animal.

On April 28, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) announced that it had “invited ten qualifying custom exempt slaughter establishments in Utah” to come under state inspection which would allow the sale of meat from animals processed at those facilities in intrastate commerce. A UDAF press release stated that “if all the [invited] custom exempt plants take part in this emergency program it could increase Utah’s processing capacity by at least 10 percent.”3

USDA has a cooperative interstate shipments program (CIS) which allows meat from approved state-inspected slaughter and/or processing facilities—with no more than 25 employees—to be shipped in interstate commerce if the plant is located in a state that FSIS has approved to participate in a state meat inspection program. At the present time, FSIS has only approved seven of the 27 states with their own meat inspection programs to be part of the CIS.

In May, Maine and Wisconsin, two states participating in the CIS program, each sent waiver requests to FSIS asking that the Feds allow meat from all state-inspected plants to be shipped in interstate commerce.

In a May 7 letter to FSIS, Commissioner Amanda Bill of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (MDACF) said, “Given the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask that FSIS grant a temporary waiver to allow all state-inspected meat to be sold in interstate commerce or to be donated to food banks that require federally inspected products. This temporary waiver would lift usual restrictions on place of sale and allow for more processing and marketing opportunities for Maine producers and consumers during the unprecedented crisis. USDA processing facilities in Maine are under immense pressure to meet demand and are reportedly booked out over a year in advance in some locations. Allowing state-inspected meat to temporarily cross state lines will greatly support regional marketing opportunities, smooth out bottlenecks in the local food chain, reduce the need to cull healthy livestock and poultry, and support those who are food insecure during this extremely difficult time.”4

In his letter to FSIS, interim secretary Randy Romanski of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) also asked USDA to grant a temporary exception to allow state-inspected meat to be sold or donated across state lines. Romanski stated, “Our agricultural development staff have been working tirelessly to identify state-inspected Main Street meat processors who may be willing to slaughter and process even an extra dozen animals a week. Our state meat inspectors stand ready to provide additional slaughter inspection days as necessary. We feel that new partnerships between farmers, processors and consumers or food donation programs are vitally important in responding to this pandemic.”5

Oregon, earlier this month, passed a bill authorizing the start up of a state meat inspection program. North Carolina and Minnesota have both recently had bills introduced that would provide financial help to improve slaughterhouse infrastructure and capacity.

There is currently legislation before Congress, Senate Bill 1720 (S.1710) that would allow the sale of state inspected meat and poultry in interstate commerce. S.1720 is legislation that needs to pass with its potential to increase the supply of meat available to consumers that is outside the meat packers’ monopoly, but the bill won’t have the impact on improvising the slaughterhouse infrastructure in the U. S. that the PRIME Act would.

Custom slaughter and processing facilities are less expensive to construct then federal and state-inspected plants; they are also considerably less expensive to operate, with the custom facilities not having requirements such as HACCP plans. Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY), the lead sponsor of the PRIME Act, has said that he has been contacted by a number of people who owned buildings that were once slaughter facilities. They have told Massie that if the PRIME Act passes into law, they could have their slaughter plants up and running in five weeks. Many of those individuals would not be interested in operating a facility again if an on-site inspector had to be present–a requirement for state and federally inspected facilities but not for custom, Only a custom facility from which meat could be sold by the cut will get them back into business. The PRIME Act will increase the number of slaughterhouses more than S.1720. Currently, 27 states have their own meat inspection program; all states except South Carolina allow the operation of custom facilities. It has been many years since FSIS has approved the start up of a state meat inspection program.

The notion has been planted in the public mind that meat can’t be produced safely without an inspector being present for slaughtering and processing, but the truth is otherwise. Custom slaughtered and processed meat has an excellent track record for food safety. USDA recalls over 20 million pounds of meat in a typical year, little or none of that comes from custom facilities. It isn’t uncommon for hundreds of people to become ill from meat processed at the large USDA-inspected processing plants; few cases of foodborne illness have been blamed on meat processed at a custom house. Where is there a better quality control, an inspected plant slaughtering 300 to 400 cattle an hour or a custom facility slaughtering a few beeves a day? Fifty such plants account for nearly 98% of the meat production in this country according to a story posted by The New York Times referencing beef analyst Cassandra Fish.6

The PRIME Act has over 50 sponsors in the House; the support is there to pass the bill. The biggest weakness in the local food system is the lack of community slaughterhouses. The existing custom houses can’t keep up with the demand. Passage of the PRIME Act is the best way to get additional slaughterhouses online now.

How You Can Make a Difference

Please call your U.S. Representative and Senators asking them to cosponsor the PRIME Act. For more information on the PRIME Act see the previous post and view the latest WAPF action alert posted at www.westonaprice.org under “Get Involved”.

You can look up your two U.S. Senators by selecting your state at www,senate.gov in the “Find Your Senator” field near the top of the webpage and your U.S. Representative by entering your zip code at www.house.gov again at the top of the webpage; you may also call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121

Article – PRIME Act Reintroduced in Congress
https://www.realmilk.com/prime-act-reintroduced-in-congress/

Action Alert – Tell Congress the PRIME Act is the Best Shot for Small Livestock Farmers!
https://www.westonaprice.org/tell-congress-the-prime-act-is-the-best-shot-for-small-livestock-farmers/

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[1] Mississippi Administrative Bulletin, Rule: Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Title 2, Part 1, Subpart 4, Chapter 07, Subchapter 01, Section 111. Amended May 7, 2020. Bulletin, System Number 24883 [entry search parameters: Title 2, dates 5/7/2020] https://www.sos.ms.gov/adminsearch/default.aspx?current_page=Bulletin

    Yields amended rule (bulletin entry cited below), retrieved from https://www.sos.ms.gov/adminsearch/ACProposed/00024883b.pdf

    “Due to issues related to the COVID-19 emergency and the impact the spread of the disease has had on the meat supply chain, the Department issues this temporary rule in an effort to increase meat availability to consumers. The temporary rule will increase the number of people that can own an animal (cattle, sheep, swine, and goats) from four to multiple owners for the purposes of the custom slaughter exemption of the meat inspection laws. The regulation will be effective for 120 days from May 7, 2020 through September 3, 2020.”

[2] Brandy McGill, “Miss. Dept. of Agriculture changes rules on how farmers can sell meat products”, WDAM7 News, May 17, 2020 (6:17 PM CDT – Updated May 18 at 3:35 PM CDT). PM. Retrieved from https://www.wdam.com/2020/05/18/miss-dept-agriculture-changes-rules-how-farmers-can-sell-meat-products/

[3] Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, “UDAF to Allow Private Custom Meat Plants to Slaughter and Process Livestock for Commercial Sale”, Press Release, April 28, 2020. Retrieved from https://ag.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2020-4-28-UDAF-Allows-Custom-Meat-Plants-to-Process-Commercial-livestock.pdf

[4] Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, “Commissioner Beal Calls on USDA to Allow State-Inspected Meat to Cross State Lines during COVID-19 Pandemic”, Maine Government News, May 8, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=Portal+News&id=2509074&v=article-2017

[5] “DATCP asks USDA for meat shipment flexibility”, Morning Ag Clips, May 6, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.morningagclips.com/datcp-asks-usda-for-meat-shipment-flexibility/

[6] Michael Corkery and David Yaffe-Bellany, “The Food Chain’s Weakest Link: Slaughterhouses”, New York Times, April 18, 2020. Excerpt below retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/business/coronavirus-meat-slaughterhouses.html

    “After decades of consolidation, there are about 800 federally inspected slaughterhouses in the United States, processing billions of pounds of meat for food stores each year. But a relatively small number of them account for the vast majority of production. In the cattle industry, a little more than 50 plants are responsible for as much as 98 percent of slaughtering and processing in the United States, according to Cassandra Fish, a beef analyst.”

PRIME Act Reintroduced in Congress

On May 23, Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Senator Angus King (I-ME) reintroduced the Processing Revival and Interstate Meat Exemption Act (H.R. 2859 / S. 1820), also known as the PRIME Act. The legislation would return power to the states to determine appropriate regulations for meat processing within their borders. The bills have been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, respectively.

The PRIME Act would give states the option of passing laws to allow the sale of custom-slaughtered and processed meat in intrastate commerce direct to the consumer and to venues such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, and boarding houses. Federal law currently prohibits the sale of custom-processed meat; meat from a custom facility can only go to the individual or individuals who own the animal at the time slaughter takes place–a requirement costing farmers a substantial amount of business. Many potential customers either don’t have the funds to buy a whole animal or the freezer space to store it.

Farmers who sell meat by the cut must use a slaughterhouse that has an inspector present during the actual slaughtering. Many communities in the U.S. have custom facilities nearby but not inspected slaughterhouses; this means hauling the animals several hours to an inspected facility, driving up the farmer’s costs and stressing the animals. There are places in this country where the farmer has to book a year in advance with the slaughterhouse under inspection for the slaughtering of livestock.

The decline in slaughterhouse infrastructure since the passage of the Wholesome Meat Act in 1967 has been one of the biggest problems small farmers face. The Wholesome Meat Act gave the federal government jurisdiction over meat processing and sales in intrastate commerce. At the time the Act passed, there were nearly 10,000 slaughterhouses in the U.S.1; as of January 1, 2019, there were 2,766.2

Passage of the PRIME Act is more important than ever. There continues to be growing demand for grass-fed beef, but with the lack of local slaughterhouses, small farmers are missing out on much of that business. Instead of business that could go to small American farmers, imported “grass-fed” beef has the dominant market share in the U.S. According to reports, 75% to 80% of grass-fed beef sold in this country is imported. Due to lax country-of-origin-labeling laws, much of this meat is labeled as being produced in the U.S.3

It remains to be seen how much market share laboratory plant-based “meat” will capture at the expense of small-scale livestock farmers, but the fake meat industry is growing rapidly at this time with support from major Wall Street banks and investment firms [see underwriters listed in the prospectus for Beyond Meat, Inc.4].

Small farmers badly need greater access to slaughterhouses to be able to compete on more even footing with agribusiness. Currently, only four companies control over 80% of the beef processing in this country; four companies control over 60% of pork processing.5

The meat industry consolidation has led to significant food safety concerns. Inspected slaughterhouses are stretched beyond capacity. In recent years the industry has had over 100 recalls each year totaling over 20,000,000 pounds of meat and poultry products being recalled annually.6

Few, if any, recalls and cases of foodborne illnesses have involved meat slaughtered and processed at a custom facility. Custom slaughterhouses are generally small facilities where often only a few animals are slaughtered and processed each day; contrast this with the USDA plants where up to 300-400 cattle are slaughtered per hour.7 The custom houses, even without an inspector on site, have a much better track record for food safety. Passage of the PRIME Act will improve food safety in the industry.

Representative Massie said, “Consumers want to know where their food comes from, what it contains, and how it’s processed. Yet federal inspection requirements make it difficult to purchase food from trusted local farmers. It is time to open our markets to give producers the freedom to succeed and consumers the freedom to choose.”8

The PRIME Act was originally introduced in 2015. In the House, H.R. 2859 and currently has eleven co-sponsors; the Senate companion bill, S. 1620 has two co-sponsors.

Please support this crucial legislation. The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) will be sending out an alert on the PRIME Act in the near future.

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[1] Riva Caroline Hodges Denny, “Between the Farm and the Farmer’s Market: Slaughterhouses, Regulations, and Alternative Food Networks ” (Master’s thesis), 2012, p. 2. Retrieved from Auburn University AUETD database, https://etd.auburn.edu/handle/10415/3247
[2] USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Livestock Slaughter 2018 Summary, April 2019; Table “Livestock Slaughter Plants by Type of Inspection – States and United States: January 1, 2018 and 2019”, p. 62. Posted at https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/r207tp32d/8336h934w/hq37vx004/lsslan19.pdf
[3] Deena Shanker, “Most Grass-Fed Beef Labeled ‘Product of U.S.A.’ Is Imported”, Bloomberg News, May 23, 2019. Posted at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-23/most-grass-fed-beef-labeled-product-of-u-s-a-is-imported
[4] Prospectus for Beyond Meat Inc. Posted at https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1655210/000162828019004543/beyondmeats-1a5.htm

[5] USDA, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, 2016 Annual Report: Packers and Stockyards Program, Table 5 “Four-Firm Concentration in Livestock Slaughter by Type of Livestock and Poultry – Federally-Inspected Plants”, p. 11. Posted at https://www.gipsa.usda.gov/psp/publication/ar/2016_psp_annual_report.pdf

[6] USDA, Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), Summary of Recall Cases for 2015-2018 are available at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/recall-summaries
[7] National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, & Food and Nutrition Board, Cattle Inspection: Committee on Evaluation of USDA Streamlined Inspection System for Cattle (SIS-C), Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1990, pp. 8, 11, 37, 73, 74, 75 & 86. Downloadable from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235649/
[8] “Representatives Massie and Pingree Introduce Bipartisan PRIME Act to Empower Local Cattle Farmers, Meet Consumer Demand”, U.S. Representative Thomas Massie website (massie.house.gov), May 23, 2019. Press release posted at https://massie.house.gov/newsroom/press-releases/representatives-massie-and-pingree-introduce-bipartisan-prime-act-to-empower

It’s Time To Put Our Federal Meat Inspection Law Out To Pasture

Outdated regulations are hampering the beef meat industry.

Written by Baylen Linniken. Originally published May 19, 2018, by Reason.com online magazine. Baylen Linnekin is a food lawyer, scholar, and adjunct law professor. He’s the author of Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable (Island Press 2016). Linnekin serves on the board of directors of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Last week, Sens. Mike Rounds (R-N.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced a bill that would allow meat processed in many state-inspected slaughterhouses and other state-inspected facilities to be sold across state lines.

The sensible bill, dubbed the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, could be a real boon to livestock farmers who want to sell their meat and meat products in neighboring states, and to the consumers who want their products.

Before you get your hopes up, though, consider that this under-the-radar, bipartisan bill has been around in some form or other for more than fifteen years. Then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) introduced similar legislation in 2000. Then-U.S. Representative (now Senator) Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) sponsored a version of the bill in 2006. A year later, then-Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) introduced the bill.

Yet the ban on interstate sales persists. That’s despite the fact it’s got broad support.

“The New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act of 2018 will strengthen local economies by allowing meat and poultry products inspected under State meat inspection programs to be sold across state lines,” said Kenny Graner, president of the United States Cattlemen’s Association, earlier this month. “This opens access to new markets that were previously unavailable due to outdated federal regulations.”

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association also supports the bill. State agriculture departments have long been on board. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is, too. A 2001 study by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, which attempted to identify differences between states that operate their own inspection regimes and those states that do not, noted the USDA “officially endorses legislation to permit interstate commerce for state-inspected meat.”

So just what is the holdup? The status quo appears to be largely the result of a powerful, lousy law colliding with lazy lawmakers in Washington.

Since the late 1960s, as I’ve lamented several times here and in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, the USDA has required any animals and their meat that will be sold commercially to be slaughtered and processed in USDA-inspected facilities or in state facilities that are “at least equal to” the USDA facilities (a requirement known, artfully, as the “‘equal to’ requirement”).

That requirement is part of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967, which applies both to interstate and intrastate sales. Practically, it means that if a local farmer wants to sell you (or a local restaurant) a pound of ground beef, he or she must have the beef processed in a facility that complies with the federal law.

The law, as it applies to wholly intrastate sales—as in the burger example—is unconstitutional. As I’ve noted before, by passing the Wholesome Meat Act, Congress delegated to the USDA a power Congress itself does not possess: to regulate wholly intrastate commerce.

On the other hand, as I noted in an op-ed in The Hill last week, Congress clearly has the power under the U.S. Constitution to regulate interstate commerce. But the fact a law is constitutional doesn’t make it smart policy. For example, under the Wholesome Meat Act, a steak from a cow that was inspected in a state facility (operated in more than half of U.S. states) that follows regulations at least as stringent as those required under federal law in, say, South Dakota, can be sold anywhere in the state but can’t be sold just across the border in Minnesota.

A program created under the 2008 Farm Bill, known as Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) Program, was supposed to alleviate the problem. But CIS has been unpopular for a variety of reasons.

First, it took years to implement. And once it was implemented, problems were immediately apparent. “The Cooperative Inspection Program is cumbersome, requires the entire state to apply to participate before individual plants that meet certain conditions can apply, and contains other provisions that appear to have dissuaded both states and plants from signing up,” reads a 2013 article in the Vermont Law Review.

According to Sen. Rounds, the bill co-sponsor, only four states so far have embraced the CIS model.

“It really is past time to just say that people can sell anywhere in the country under state inspection,” says Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, in an email to me this week. “[E]ither that, or stop requiring that state inspection be equal to federal. Either it is equal or it’s not!”

The Wholesome Meat Act Hustle

inspecting the meat and work

This month the Maine Legislature held an emergency session, a move partly due to a threat from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to shut down Maine’s state meat inspection program. In June Governor Paul LePage signed into law Legislative Drawer (LD) 725, “An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems”. LD 725 establishes the power of local governments to devise their own regulations governing direct transactions between a local food producer and consumer; the bill gave the locality the power to allow the unregulated unlicensed sale of food direct from producer to consumer within its boundaries including the sale of meat from an animal slaughtered and processed on the farm. The USDA warned that, unless the state meat and poultry inspection program is governed by laws at least as strict as federal requirements, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will take over inspection of Maine establishments where livestock or poultry is slaughtered and/or processed. On October 24 the legislature passed an amended version of LD 725 which affirmed that state laws on slaughter and processing will be at least as strict as federal requirements.

The Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 (WMA) prohibits the sale of uninspected meat in intrastate or interstate commerce, with the Act requiring that an inspector must be present when slaughter takes place. The WMA extended USDA’s jurisdiction over meat and poultry slaughter and processing to intrastate commerce and only allows uninspected meat to go to the owner(s) of the slaughtered animals. Prior to the passage of WMA, farmers slaughtering on-farm were exempt from inspection as long as they sold direct to consumers; these sales could take place in interstate commerce, as well as intrastate.

Arguably, the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 along with state mandatory pasteurization laws have done more to damage the rural economy and empty the countryside of sustainable family farms than any other developments in the past 50 years. Legislators, in passing the two measures, addressed what they perceived to be unsanitary conditions in the meat and dairy sectors. Unlike raw milk, where thousands of illnesses were attributed to milk produced at urban swill dairies, during Congress’ deliberation of the WMA testimony and evidence from proponents provided few, if any, cases of illness caused by the consumption of uninspected meat whether slaughtered on the farm or at a custom slaughterhouse facility.

What is currently happening in Maine presents an opportunity to make the public aware of how the supporters of WMA hustled Congress into passing the Act by looking at comments made shortly after the Act became law. What the passage of the WMA has led to has been the creation of a monopoly in the meat industry, a loss of consumer choice, a decline in the ability of small sustainable farms to meet demand, and a deterioration in food safety and quality.

In 1971 the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Small Business released a report titled, “The Effects of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 upon Small Business.” The report contains the following quotation:

In our judgment it is well to recall the key events leading to the enactment of the Wholesome Meat Act. Many in the meat industries are still bitter about what took place in 1967…. The general attitude was that the industry had been unfairly maligned, that the excesses of the few had damaged the reputations of them all and that the cost of compliance had been high, excessively high. There was contempt for the consumer groups, particularly certain of the “crusaders”–most notably Betty Furness (Presidential Assistant for Consumer Affairs) and Ralph Nader. The Furnesses and Naders had “stampeded” both the White House and the Congress, particularly the latter; the National Legislature had, in effect, been sold a “bill of goods” and the consequence of the law would be that many would be driven out of business by the government. There can be no gainsaying the fact that there is great resentment on the part of the many in the meat industry over the whole episode. And, many fear Uncle Sam is driving them out of business for misguided reasons.1

The concerns of the Senate report have come to pass; in 1967 there were nearly 10,000 slaughterhouses; as of January 1, 2017, there were 2,732. Many of the slaughterhouses shutting down were community slaughterhouses which provided access to slaughtering and processing for small livestock farmers. As the community slaughterhouses went out of business, many livestock farmers did as well. Today, there are livestock farmers who have to make reservations to get their animals slaughtered at an inspected facility a year in advance due to the shortage of slaughterhouses in their area.

Months after the WMA became law the weekly newspaper, the National Observer, published its own findings about the passage of the WMA. The May 20, 1968, edition of the paper stated the following:

Agents of the Federal Government fanned out across the nation last July under urgent and explicit instructions from Washington to gather examples of horrid conditions in meat-processing plants not under U.S. Government control. Swiftly and often with calculated deception, the Federal men got what they were ordered to get. These findings, which were widely accepted as factual and unbiased Government inspection reports, painted a picture of widespread filth in meat handling. These reports were later to be used as undisputed authority for scare stories that frightened the public and helped stampede Congress into passage of a new and tougher Federal meat-inspection law–the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967.

What can be confirmed is the nasty fact that the “evidence” gathered last July was deliberately biased, that the tainted reports were used to mislead Congress and the public, that they put a lie in the mouth of President Johnson, duped a large number of well-meaning people, including Ralph Nader and Betty Furness and did a superb con job on much of the nation’s press….

The stench of the filthy-meat survey began sweeping out belatedly early this year when state and industry officials challenged the authority of some of the inspectors’ findings. An investigation by this newspaper revealed that U.S. inspectors had, indeed, fudged on some facts…and that other reports were doctored in Washington to make them sound even more damning than they were.2

The WMA has not improved food safety. There have been numerous foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to consumption of inspected meat in recent years and the number of recalls of meat products has increased substantially from what it once was. FSIS inspectors have the thankless task of trying to maintain quality control in USDA plants that slaughter 300-400 cattle per hour. These large slaughterhouses have come about as a result of the consolidation of the meat industry; currently, only four companies control over 80% of the beef processing in this country; four companies control over 60% of pork processing.

The antidote to the disastrous effects of the WMA is for Congress to pass the “Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act” (H.R. 2657 and S. 1232), also known as the PRIME Act.

Passage of the PRIME Act would give states the option of allowing the intrastate sale of meat slaughtered and processed at a custom facility direct to the consumer or to hotels, restaurants and retail stores; a custom facility could be located at a farm. Please read action alert on H.R. 2657 by the Weston A. Price Foundation and call your U.S. Representative asking him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 2657.

If the PRIME Act passes, Maine farmers could potentially be able to sell the meat from on-farm slaughtered animals to those in their community as LD 725 originally intended. This is something that has been going on for sometime in various ethnic communities in the U.S., including Latino, African, Southeast Asian, and European communities. If there have been any food safety problems with this practice, there have been few, if any, reports in the media.

The Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 was a solution in search of a problem that wound up creating much bigger problems than it was meant to solve. Passage of the PRIME Act is an important step towards rebuilding the slaughterhouse infrastructure in this country and enabling livestock farmers to make a better living and meet the demand for quality locally produced meat.

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1. 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. U.S. Govt. Print. Off, Washington, 1971. pp. 11-12.

2. Naughton, Dennis. The Wholesome Meat Act and Intrastate Meat Plants. Creighton Law Review, vol. 4, 1970. Footnote 19, pp. 88-89.