Safe meat and poultry products are a very important part of our food supply. Inspection programs help ensure the safety of these products for the public. Various forms of inspection are performed during meat and poultry production depending on how they are sold and used. In most cases, these operations fall into one of three categories: continuous inspection, custom exempt or retail exempt. This fact sheet describes the three inspection categories your business may fall under.
Continuous Inspection: Meat and poultry business operators who wish to sell their products to other businesses are required to be under continuous inspection. This means that their process is inspected every day during operations to ensure they are producing safe food. For example, in a slaughter operation, every animal must be inspected to determine that the meat comes from an animal free from signs of disease.
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. Businesses that need to have this type of inspection usually have two options for inspection:
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.
Nicole Neeser, DVM, MPHDairy, Meat & Poultry Inspection Program Manager651email@example.com
Teresa ChirhartMeat & Poultry Inspection Program Supervisor651firstname.lastname@example.org
Dairy & Food Inspection Division