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Iowa Joins Program That Lets Local Lockers Sell Meat in Other States

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Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file
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Smaller livestock producers could sell their meat in other states if they take animals to a locker that joins the cooperative interstate shipment program.

A new agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes Iowa the seventh state where some small meat lockers can sell products in other states.

Almost a year ago, some small, state-inspected meat lockers approached the Iowa Department of Agriculture about joining the USDA cooperative interstate shipment program. It lets lockers with fewer than 25 employees apply for permission to sell their meat across state lines. Currently, those lockers are held to the same food safety and other standards as federally-inspected meat processors, but state employees are on-site during operations.

“We have a program that’s already jointly conducted with USDA,” says Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, “and this really takes it to the next level.”

Though the effort was underway well before the pandemic, Naig says the current situation has highlighted the need—both for consumers to have greater access to locally processed meat, and for lockers to have more avenues for selling their products.

“We’re really excited to be able to launch this and do it at a time when we’ve highlighted the importance of having additional markets,” Naig says. 

Eligible meat and poultry processors will have to apply to join the program. Once they’re approved, they’ll still have daily on-site inspections from state employees, but federal food inspectors will also make periodic visits. They’ll be allowed to sell their products online and internationally as well as across state lines. 

The other states in the cooperative interstate shipment program are Indiana, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Only states with a meat and poultry inspection program at least as rigid as the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service requirements are eligible to join the program.

Copyright 2020 Iowa Public Radio News. To see more, visit Iowa Public Radio News.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.