The country is beginning to experience the drastic impact of the ongoing consolidation of the meat processing industry causing instability in our food supply, and specifically in our meat supply. Four companies control processing of over 80% of the country’s beef, and four control about two-thirds of the country’s pork. This consolidation has led to the current situation in which plant closures due to worker illness and unsafe conditions can cause concerns about possible meat shortages. Yet there are hundreds of millions of livestock and poultry in this county.
There is a very simple solution, and that is to enable increased direct-to-consumer sales of meat. Under current law, the federal Wholesome Meat Act requires processing of all beef and pork to be slaughtered and processed in USDA inspected facilities or state facilities that follow standards at least as stringent as federal rules. Small local producers have little access to these facilities as they generally serve the large consolidated food industry. Even when they can obtain these services, the facility is often hundreds of miles away, making a visit cost prohibitive for the small producer and stressful on the animals.
The solution is to finally pass a proposed change in federal law called the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act (the PRIME Act), H.R. 2859 / S. 1620. The PRIME Act would repeal the ban on sale of meat processed by custom slaughterhouses that meet state regulations and basic federal requirements. Currently, animal owners can have their own meat processed in these facilities but cannot sell products processed at custom facilities. A consumer who is not able to pay for and store hundreds of pounds of meat in one order is unable to access the meat from a custom slaughterhouse. And a farmer who wants to sell his or her beef, lamb, goat, or pork to consumers at a local farmers’ market or other local outlet cannot use a custom slaughterhouse.
The PRIME Act addresses this problem and can help with both the short-term crisis and the long-term change we need in our food system.
Take action below to support this important bill!
The PRIME Act repeals the federal ban on the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses. The bill returns control to the states to address the issue of meat processing. States would be able to permit producers to sell meat processed at a custom slaughterhouse within the state. States could choose to impose whatever conditions or limitations that best suited their particular agricultural food system and social conditions. These facilities meet state regulations as well as basic federal requirements. They are typically very small with few employees. The extensive and complicated federal regulations that apply to massive meatpacking facilities are neither needed nor appropriate for these operations, which might process as much meat in an entire year as the large facilities do in a single day. Their small scale also means that they are better able to provide necessary social distancing and sanitation measures while safely continuing operations.
The PRIME Act could help improve access and reduce meat prices for consumers in the coming months, while providing income for small farmers and ranchers across the country. And it has many long-term benefits, as the Act would:
- Help establish vital infrastructure in rural communities.
- Improve farmers’ incomes and opportunities.
- Increase consumers’ access to locally raised meats.
- Reduce stress on animals from long-distance hauling.
- Reduce transportation miles and greenhouse gases.
The PRIME Act has bipartisan support, but it has languished with no committee hearing or movement. Will you help?
TAKE ACTION #1: For everyone
Call your U.S. Representative and Senators and urge them to sign on to H.R. 2859 and S. 1620. You can look up who represents you at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Below is a sample message for your call or email. Remember that calls have a greater impact, and only take a couple of minutes. Use this sample message as a starting point and tailor it to your own language and focus on why this issue is important to you. Personalized messages are the best way to convince legislators!
As a constituent, I urge Representative ____ to co-sponsor H.R. 2859, the PRIME Act. [OR: I urge Senator ____ to co-sponsor S.1620, the PRIME Act.]
As Americans face potential meat shortages due to the closing of massive meatpackers, it is more important than ever to revitalize our local food production and processing. The PRIME Act opens up options for small livestock farms and ranches by removing the federal ban on the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses within a state, subject to state law. This returns power to the states to establish a regulatory scheme that makes sense for their citizens.
At a time when we see empty grocery store shelves, and media headlines about the failure of massive meatpacking companies to safely secure our food supply, this bill provides vital opportunities—and many long-term benefits. The PRIME Act supports local food production and small businesses, while also reducing vehicle miles traveled with livestock trailers, and helping to meet the consumer demand for locally raised meat.
Please support consumers and small farmers by co-sponsoring H.R. 2859. [OR S. 1620.]
If you are a livestock producer, take a few extra minutes and ask to speak to the staffer who handles agricultural issues. Briefly explain to the staffer any problems you have faced with lack of access to inspected slaughterhouses, and how the PRIME Act would help your business and benefit your customers.
NOTE: If your Representative is already a co-sponsor, be sure to say, “Thank you!” when you call. See H.R. 2859 bipartisan co-sponsors HERE. S.B. 1620 was filed by Senator Angus King (I-ME) and is co-sponsored by Rand Paul (R-KY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
TAKE ACTION #2: Do you represent a non-profit organization, or own a farm or ranch?
Sign on to a letter of support to the House Agriculture Committee urging them to move the PRIME Act forward! Just fill out the form HERE. If you have problems, please let us know at [email protected], and we will forward your information to our ally, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, which is leading this letter effort.
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