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The COVID-19 pandemic brought into sharp relief the fragilities of a consolidated meat industry and the importance of localized options for livestock slaughter. This issue brief provides an overview of the federal and state policy landscape for meat inspections, specifically for on-farm slaughter, that can have wide-reaching repercussions for small-scale livestock farmers.  

Since 2020, an increased emphasis has been placed on building resilient food systems across the United States, which often involves bolstering localized resources and ethical production over the centralized, industrial model that has dominated for decades.  

One such resource is on-farm slaughter, a method particularly useful for small-scale livestock farmers who are looking to reduce their transportation costs and promote animal welfare. However, despite the rise in on-farm slaughter during the COVID-19 pandemic, existing meat inspection laws have not yet adapted to include these sorts of operations.  

In a new issue brief, authors Jenileigh Harris MFALP’18 and Shaune Hickson, former CAFS Summer Honors Intern, provide an overview of current federal and state meat inspection laws, and how on-farm slaughter exemptions and their interpretations have impacted small-scale farmers. This brief also includes policy recommendations for improving access to on-farm slaughter resources that can increase the resiliency of the local meat system.  

This resource also explains the role of on-farm slaughter and regionalized food systems on food sovereignty, allowing both farmers and their customers agency over how their food is raised, processed, and marketed in their own communities.  

This publication was made possible with support from the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service.