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Selling Locally Grown Meat


CDFA: CA Department of Food & Agriculture, MPES: Meat, Poultry & Egg Safety branch

USDA: United States Department of Agriculture, FSIS: Food Safety & Inspection Service

Processing Requirements 

Livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs) must be harvested at a USDA facility and cut & wrapped at a USDA facility in order to sell that meat yourself. The other option is to sell the livestock to a CDFA licensed meat processor, they will have it USDA harvested, then they can sell that meat. See Figure 1.

NOTE: Exception for beef cattle, see Whole Animal Sales for Custom Processing fact sheet for details.

Poultry (chicken, ducks, turkeys, geese, other domesticated birds, small game birds, and rabbits) raised by the seller or a known source, maybe sold at farmers market if animals were slaughtered at USDA, USDA exempt or CDFA/MPES licensed facilities, and they are properly labeled.

Figure 1 diagram for livestock slaughter transactions in California from Selling Meat and Meat Products, ANR Publication 8146.

Diagram for livestock slaughter transactions in CA

Table 1 summarizes where species must be harvested and processed in order to be eligible for retail sale in California:

United States Dept of Ag-USDA Inspected Facilities

USDA, CA Dept of Food & Ag-CDFA or
Meat Poultry & Egg Safety-MPES
Inspected Facilities*

Beef, Lamb, Pork, Goat

Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Turkeys and Other Domesticated Birds, Rabbits, Non-Amenable species*

*These species may be voluntarily processed at a USDA inspected facility.  Poultry and rabbits may also be processed by the grower under an exemption (MPES inspected).

Listing of processing facilities.

Labeling Requirements for Meat

Each package of meat must include a label with the following:

  • Name and place of business of the seller
  • Accurate declaration of the quantity of the contents
  • USDA/CDFA inspection legend (Table 2)
  • The common name of the food (species and cut/description)
  • The label of any cut of beef, veal, lamb, or pork should identify the species, and must identify cut from which it is derived (i.e. Loin, flank, chuck/shoulder), and the retail name if applicable (i.e. tri-tip) .

CCOF + EcoFarm Meat Labeling Webinar Recording: Organic Labeling & Marketing Strategies for Meat Producers, May 2021.

Table 2 identifies the inspection legends required for meats eligible for retail sale:

Type of Meat Inspection Legend Required Sell at Farmers Market
Cuts of Beef, Veal, Lamb, Pork USDA Yes
Further Processed meats
Sausage, jerky and other cured/dried meats
NMPAN: Further Processed Meat Products

Poultry & Rabbits
Amenable Poultry: chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, squab, guineas and ratites
[emus, rhea and ostrich]
Non-amenable: migratory waterfowl and game birds

USDA, CDFA, Exempt P.L. 90-942or no legend 
(meat from MPES Inspected facilities - refer to USDA Poultry Exemption Guide)

+Non-Amenable species:
Wild deer, bison, bison, domestic deer, pheasant∇, quail∇, and captive raised waterfowl∇, and other exotics
None required
(USDA/CDFA/MPES possible)
If no inspection legend,
it is up to the farmers market manager.

*CDFA Commercial Kitchen Requirements Policy. CDFA licensed retail facilities (referred to by USDA as 'retail exempt') may only sell cooked, cured, smoked, rendered or otherwise processed meat to household consumers. CDFA licensed retail facilities may cut up, trim, slice, grind, freeze products from meat and sell to household and non-household consumers within the limits set out in 9 CFR 303.1 (d)(2)(ii) and(iii) 75% to household consumers, 25% up to max $ allowed to non-hh (max $ adjusted annually). See also: USDA FSIS's Summary of Federal Inspection Requirements for Meat Products.

∇ Small game birds such as quail, pheasant and partridge can be processed in poultry plants: USDA inspected, CDFA licensed or USDA exempt. Check with the plant.

Marketing Labels

A marketing label, for example, “grass-fed, no antibiotics, etc” must meet United States Standards for Livestock and Meat Marketing Claims. To learn more about labeling visit FSIS's Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms and Claims Guidelines

Organic: The term “organic” can only be used if registered by CDFA. USDA's Guide for Organic Livestock Producers.

  • Registration: in California, registration is required for all entities that raise, grow, store, transport and sell organic products.   
    CDFA Organic Registration is required of every entity engaged in production or handling of raw organic products. This includes diary and meat except for processed dairy and meat products. 
  • Certification: If gross sales of organic product exceeds $5,000 or if the business wants to use the USDA Organic seal, they must obtain organic certification from an approved third party certifier, also found on USDA Ag Marketing Service Certifier Locator.

USDA Grassfed Program for Small & Very Small Producers:

  • Market 49 or LESS cattle annually
  • Market lambs from 99 or LESS ewes annually

Note: USDA withdrew Grass Fed Marketing Claim Standard and Naturally Raised Market Claim Standard in Jan 2016. This new program is for very small producers only.

Other Programs (incomplete list): Visit USDA's list of known programs, plus A Greener WorldAmerican Humane CertifiedCertified Humane, Certified Naturally Grown, Land to Market (Savory), Regenerative Organic Certified.

Label Approvals

FSIS Labeling Procedures: As of November 2013, USDA FSIS (Food Safety & Inspection Service) expanded label claims that must be submitted to them for approval:

Labels that ALWAYS need to be submitted to the FSIS for approval include (See USDA FSIS Labeling Compliance Guidance, Aug 2017, for complete details):

  • Temporary approvals
  • Labels for export only that bear labeling deviations
  • Religious exemption, e.g., Buddhist exemptions, Confucian exemptions
  • Labels bearing special statements and claims (e.g. regenerative, sustainable, etc) and must include documentation to substantiate the claim.

Food Safety

Because the meat being sold is from an approved source (USDA or CDFA harvested, processed and labeled as outlined above) a permit from Sonoma County Environmental Health & Safety is not required.  
Meat must be stored and displayed at or below 41° at all times.  The packages can be fresh or frozen. The Sonoma County Environmental Health & Safety inspects CFMs to insure and verify the meat is being stored and displayed safely.
Per USDA FSIS: There are no regulations regarding the length of time products can be sold. They must remain wholesome. When frozen, it will primarily be quality that will be affected, not safety.

HACCP Plan for Meat Processors - Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point is the processed used to determine food safety hazards reasonably likely to occur in production of meat processing and identifies preventive measures. Visit eXtension's Food Safety/HACCP page to learn more. Local food scientist Richard Stier may also be a good resource.

Meat Storage & Transportation

You are allowed to store unsold meat on your ranch and to transport it, provided you have the facilities to do that and keep the meat at temperatures as outlined above.

If you only are selling meat to the end consumer, USDA registration is not required.

However, if you are selling the meat to a wholesaler or it will be re-sold at a store, restaurant or other, your meat storage facility is required to be registered with the USDA. This registration is FREE. Meat (including poultry) must be stored in a USDA approved facility and transported by a business/individual that is registered with USDA.
NOTE: Registration is not required for those transporting federally inspected meat and/or poultry products unless the transporter is also the broker, manufacturer, public warehouse or wholesaler. 
Complete this form to become a storage facility of meat for human consumption:

Getting Started in Business

There are many additional requirements for business operations. To get started, visit:


Specific information contained herein has been verified by the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services and the California Department of Food & Agriculture.
Created and revised by Karen Giovannini, Agriculture Ombudsman, UCCE Sonoma County.