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Starting a Food Business?

This is a photo of baking set-up
To start a food business there are regulatory requirements that you will need to meet. Some of these requirements apply to all food businesses, and some are specific to the particular food product or where you plan to operate your business. There are multiple divisions at the Department of Agriculture who license and inspect food production. To help identify which division(s) you will need to seek licensing from, you’ll first need to decide what kind of food products you are interested in making. Generally speaking, they fall into four categories: meat and poultry, dairy, all other foods and retail food. 

Meat and Poultry

A photo of meat being sliced by a butcher

If you plan to make meat or poultry products you will need a license from the Division of Meat Inspection.  The Division of Meat Inspection regulates and inspects operators who intend to:

  • Slaughter any livestock or poultry for resale, or who intend to provide a slaughtering service to individual livestock or bird owners. (Slaughtering livestock or poultry of one's own raising for personal use is exempt from inspection.)

  • Process any meat or poultry products for wholesale which may also include certain activities associated with retail operations. Fully inspected facility responsibilities include: ante-mortem inspection, post-mortem inspection, sanitation inspection, humane handling verification, labeling verification, verification of the plant’s food safety plan (HACCP plan), residue sampling and product and environmental sampling for common foodborne pathogens.


A photo of various dairy products

If you plan to become a dairy producer (milking the animals) or a dairy processor (making finished products for consumers), you will need a license from the Dairy Division.  A dairy processor license is for anyone making and wholesaling a dairy product, to include but not limited to fluid milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream or butter.  The Dairy Division also licenses those individuals making frozen desserts, which could include ice cream, popsicles and frozen ices.

All Other Foods

All other food products, with some exceptions, will need a food processing license from the Division of Food Safety. Wholesaling under a food processing facility license allows you to sell your products anywhere and to anyone; this includes grocery stores, restaurants and the internet.  The Food Safety Division Resource page is a good place to begin the research process.

Retail Food Establishments

If you plan to primarily sell your food products directly to consumers, you will generally need a retail food establishment license from your local health department.

Examples include restaurants and food trucks.