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In this page you will find a list of the most common questions and answers related to the Division of Meat Inspection. Please be advised that the information provided on this page is meant to provide general guidance and might not be applicable to your particular situation. Should you have specific questions related to Ohio’s Meat Inspection laws, please feel free to contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture. You can also fill out a feedback and/or contact form for further assistance in the help section of the website.
First you should decide what kind of operation you would like to conduct and also who you intend on servicing or selling your products to. If your intention is to operate a retail store or meat shop, for example, where you are buying in meat products, processing that into consumer-ready packages or quantities, and are selling to retail customers (i.e. end users) all from one location you need to contact your local health department for assistance. In general, retail sales, door-to-door sales, restaurants, etc are licensed under the county or city health departments.

In general, the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Division of Meat Inspection is responsible for regulating operators who intend on:

  • Slaughtering any livestock or poultry for resale or who intend on providing 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)
  • Processing any meat or poultry products for wholesale or who will, as a retailer, wholesale any meat products outside the specified criteria set forth by the USDA. Specifically those criteria are: 
    • Sales are limited to HRI customers (hotel, restaurant or institutional accounts).
    • Sales cannot exceed the dollar limitation set forth by USDA (for 2010-2011 the limits are: $60,200 for red meat and $50,200 for poultry). This dollar limitation is a figure which will automatically be adjusted during the first quarter of each calendar year, upward or downward, whenever the Consumer Price Index, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, indicates a change in the price of this same volume of product which exceeds $500. Notice of the adjusted dollar limitation will be published in the Federal Register. 
    • At least 75 percent, in terms of dollar value, of total sales of product represents retail sales to household consumers (i.e. non-HRI accounts). 
    • The retailer is limited to simple processing (cutting up, slicing, and trimming carcasses, halves, quarters, or wholesale cuts into retail cuts such as steaks, chops, and roasts, and freezing such cuts; grinding and freezing products made from meat; breaking bulk shipments of products; or wrapping or rewrapping products.
In the event you are interested in performing any of the operations stated immediately above, you can contact our office directly at (614) 728-6260 or provide a mailing address in your inquiry and we will get a packet of information that describes regulations, guidelines, HACCP plan requirements, as well as a sanitation guidelines and information (SSOP) mailed out to you.

A fully inspected facility is one where the animals being slaughtered are exposed to a full inspection through the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Meat Inspection. The resulting meat products are then eligible for resale to the general public within the state of Ohio. A custom exempt facility is one where basic slaughter and processing services are provided to animal owners. The resulting meat products must be stamped "Not For Sale" and returned to the animal owner "exclusively for use, in the household of such owner, by him and members of his household and his nonpaying guests and employees". The products cannot be sold or distributed to the 'general public' via retail stores, restaurants, farmer's markets, etc. 

Additionally, a fully inspected facility would be required to develop and implement a written HACCP program (a basic food safety program that focuses on the prevention of potential chemical, biological and physical hazards through monitoring of 'high risk' steps in a facility's process). This entails daily monitoring of such things as zero tolerance (making sure the carcass is free of any fecal, ingesta or milk contamination), cooking and chilling temperatures, etc. and then tracking those findings through a recordkeeping system.

An inspector would visit both types of facilities; however, the fully inspected facilities would be visited daily (each day of inspected slaughter or processing) with 100% of the slaughter covered. The custom facilities would be covered on a random basis (generally 3-4 times/month) with no requirement for mandatory slaughter coverage.

That summarizes the main differences between the two types of facilities; keep in mind, however, there may be several other slight differences.

The Division of Meat Inspection doesn't regulate the importation of animals that are hunted in another country. Generally speaking, animals that are taken by hunting are not permitted to be sold for food; they are only to be consumed that hunter.

I would refer you to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). On their website (http://www.cbp.gov/) they list the following information:

Game birds and animals, other than protected species, that are legally taken by United States residents in Canada or Mexico may be imported for non-commercial purposes at any U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry and declared on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Form 3-177-1. Game must be accompanied by a valid hunting license, tags, stamps, and by an export document from the country where taken, if such is required. Only United States residents may import game free of duty. United States residents may only import migratory game birds that they themselves have legally killed. The Fish and Wildlife Service has regulations regarding the number and species of migratory game birds that may be imported from Canada, Mexico, and other countries. Hunters should familiarize themselves with the restrictions on migratory game birds taken legally during open season in other countries.

Yes. Companies can choose to have the meat and poultry that they sell graded by USDA; it is not mandatory. This is the only mark of identity you have for knowing the quality of the product. If a meat or poultry product is graded by USDA, there must be a USDA grade shield or mark on the carcass, package or product label. Only the official USDA grade can be used as a guide to the quality of the meat. If the company claims it is selling Choice beef, for example, it must be proclaimed on the package or product label within the USDA shield or another approved marking.

Meat and poultry companies may label products with a company's private quality label. If a product is labeled with a term such as "restaurant quality," understand that this is not an endorsed claim by USDA, but rather a subject claim made by the company.

In comparison, inspection services are mandatory and are offered either through a state meat and poultry program, such as the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Meat Inspection or USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service. In most cases, slaughtering services and meat or poultry manufacturing (for wholesale) require a mandatory license with a meat/poultry inspection program.

Unfortunately, we don’t track meat consumption in the state of Ohio; our goal is one more directly targeted at ensuring the meat and poultry produced and processed in the state of Ohio is safe, wholesome, and truthfully labeled.
You may want to contact the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service at 614-728-2100 or nass-oh@nass.usda.gov. They may be able to provide the statistics you are looking for.

Before buying meat and poultry in quantity from a door-to-door dealer, become an informed consumer by getting to know important information about the company and dealer. Some tips to keep in mind when making the decision to purchase are:

  • Check the dealer -Ask for literature and take plenty of time to read it. If you lack the time to check into the distribution practices of the company, consider not purchasing from them or at least delaying the purchase until you can do your homework.
  • Ask for a brochure-Reputable companies will have a local sales office with a published price list that includes the address and phone number of the company. It might be helpful to call the number while the representative is present. This may head off any phony phone numbers or disconnected numbers. In other words, verify that you are getting a working number in the event there are problems with your purchase.
  • Understand the cuts -Know which cut of meat or poultry you are buying when making a meat or poultry purchase decision. Check the label for proper identification of the cut of meat or poultry you are purchasing. For example, you don't want to pay top dollar for tenderloin and receive a cheaper cut such as a shoulder roast.
  • Read the label on the package or carton before you buy. Insist on having the establishment number where the meat or poultry was inspected. Inspection of meat and poultry is mandatory and all meat and poultry transported and sold either interstate or within the state must be inspected by the Federal or State government. The box or package of meat must bear the plant's inspection number. The Food Safety and Inspection Service carries out USDA's responsibilities under the Federal Inspection Act for the Federal Government and the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Division of Meat Inspection carries out those same responsibilities for the state of Ohio. These laws protect consumers by assuring that meat and poultry products are wholesome, unadulterated, and properly marked labeled and packaged. USDA and state inspected products are required to give information about the product on the label. On raw products the species, the cut, the net weight, the ingredients statement and the safe handling statement are required. No ingredient may be added to fresh meat or poultry unless the ingredient is listed on the label. Some companies may offer less tender cuts, or lower grades of meat or poultry for lower prices because the product has been tenderized with a marinade or flavoring agent. Beware of any dealer who wants you to purchase bulk quantities of meat and poultry that are not properly labeled. Always ask the dealer to leave the box or labeling information if individual products are not labeled.
  • Ask to see their retail permit -In the State of Ohio, mobile units (i.e. trucks or vans) selling meat and/or poultry items door-to-door, or “unsolicited”, must license that unit with their local health department. They should be able to provide you with a copy of that license, or at a minimum, tell you which local health they are registered with. You can then verify that information by calling that local health department. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, or feel you are getting the “run-around”, go with your instincts and don't make the purchase.
  • Always check to be sure the product has been carried in a refrigerated vehicle. Never buy meat or poultry products that are carried in an unrefrigerated truck or car trunk. The product may be unsafe because bacteria that cause illness multiply rapidly above 40 degrees.
  • If you change your mind -The Federal Trade Commission Cooling-Off Rule gives you three days to cancel purchases that are made in your home or at a location that is not the permanent place of business or local address of the seller. The Cooling-Off Rule does not cover sales of $25 or under. Under the rule, the salesperson must orally inform you of your cancellation rights at the time of sale. You also must be given two copies of a cancellation form and a copy of your contract or receipt. The contract or receipt should be dated, show the name and address of the seller, and explain your right to cancel. The contract or receipt must be in the same language used in the sales presentation. Also remember that using a charge card does not guarantee a refund. To cancel a sale, sign and date one copy of the cancellation form. Make sure the envelope is postmarked before midnight of the third business day after the contract date. Saturday is considered a business day but Sunday and Federal holidays are not. Because proof of the mailing date and receipt are important, consider sending the cancellation form by certified mail. Keep the other copy of the cancellation form for your records.
  • If you have a complaint about the company -Try to resolve your dispute with the seller first. Make sure you act quickly. Write a letter of complaint and send it certified mail. A letter is important because it puts your complaint on record and lets the company know you are serious about pursuing the dispute. Be sure you keep a copy for your records. If you are still not satisfied, remember you always have the right to seek the advise of a lawyer.

In general, beware of claims that are too good to be true. They usually are.

*Provided in part by the Food Safety and Inspection Service