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Meat processing laws in Ohio and the U.S.

By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program

Meat sales have been subject to serious supply chain issues wrought by COVID-19, raising many questions here in Ohio about who can process meat and where meat can be sold. In my opinion, explaining meat processing laws is nearly as difficult as summarizing the Internal Revenue Code. But one easy answer to the meat processing questions we’ve been receiving relates to Ohio’s participation in the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) Program established by the 2008 Farm Bill. Ohio was the first state to participate in CIS and is the largest of the seven approved state CIS programs. CIS participation means that a small Ohio processor can apply to operate as a “federally inspected” plant and sell meat across state lines, including through online sales.

To become a “CIS establishment,” the processor must have fewer than 25 full-time employees and meet specific food safety and sanitation standards that are verified through an inspection and assessment process. Because Ohio’s “state inspected program” already includes many components of the “federally inspected” standards, it’s not a difficult leap for Ohio processors to get into the CIS program and expand their sales opportunities. Small processors interested in CIS start the process by talking with their designated meat inspector from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. For a list of Ohio’s 26 CIS establishments, visit the USDA/FSIS CIS Establishments page at:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/inspection/state-inspection-programs/cis/CIS-Establishments

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