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Here is a little background information to help you understand meat and poultry processing and the different inspection types.

Continuous Inspection

Continuous inspection is required for any business that wishes to sell their products to other retail outlets such as grocery stores, restaurants, or other food service institutions. Continuous inspection means that the business’s process is inspected every day during operations to ensure they are producing safe food.  In a slaughter processing facility, every animal is inspected to determine that the meat comes from an animal free from signs of disease.

There are two types of continuous inspection:

Federal inspection

Businesses that want to produce and sell their products in other states and/or for export to other countries must be inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). These businesses may slaughter their own animals or purchase their products from other FSIS/USDA inspected sources and further process these products under continuous inspection.

State "Equal To" Inspection

Businesses that want to produce and sell their products only within the state of Minnesota can be inspected by a State Inspection Program. These businesses may slaughter their own animals or purchase their products from either a USDA inspected source or from other State Inspected establishments for further processing in their facility. Minnesota is one of 27 States that have an "Equal To" inspection program. 

These plants operate under the requirements as set by the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

Custom Exempt Processors

A custom meat processor is defined in State and Federal law as a plant that does not require continuous inspection because they only process meat for the owner of the animal. The meat or poultry cannot be sold and can only be consumed by the owner, the owner’s immediate family, and non-paying guests. Custom processed meat must be identified “NOT FOR SALE." Businesses that operate under this exemption are inspected by the State Inspection Programs or by FSIS/USDA on a regular basis. However, inspections of these operations are conducted less frequently than operations under continuous inspection.

Retail Exempt Processors

These businesses buy meat and poultry products from approved inspected sources (either FSIS or State inspected) and then sell these products at retail in their facility. Retail sales are to the final consumer. These operations are inspected by State Food Inspection Programs and must meet their state’s regulations for producing food.