Amid the coronavirus pandemic, with processing plants closing and cattle prices that are experiencing a roller coaster ride, a new Wyoming law could offer a solution for ranchers.
In March, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) signed HB0155, an animal-share amendment which will allow consumers to buy meat from ranchers through an animal-share agreement, circumventing USDA inspection.
The amendment to the state’s Food Freedom Act will go into effect in July and takes advantage of an exemption created under § 623(a) of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), which governs interstate and even mostintrastate livestock slaughter and meat sales in this country. The FMIA exemption allows custom slaughtering of livestock by and for an “owner” of the animal.
While Jim Magagna, the executive vice president of Wyoming Stock Growers Association, states it is not an answer to all the ranchers’ problems, it is an added opportunity to “facilitate doing this type of direct-to-consumer-type of sale.”
“What this does is simplify the procedure of buying interest in one of my animals, or my herd,” Magagna told WLJ. “Because you have an interest in the animal, it does not have to be processed afterward in an inspected plant. It could be processed in a non-USDA inspected plant or processed on somebody’s property privately.”
The amendment states an “animal share” is “an ownership interest in an animal or herd of animals created by a written contract between an informed end consumer and a farmer or rancher that includes a bill of sale to the consumer for an ownership interest in the animal or herd and a boarding provision under which the consumer boards the animal or herd with the farmer or rancher for care and processing and the consumer is entitled to receive a share of meat from the animal or herd.”
“The idea for the bill is simple,” said Rep. Tyler Lindholm (WY-R-1), who also serves on the board of the nonprofit Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. “Let ranchers and farmers sell herd shares for their animals. That way, the entire herd is ‘owned’ by all of the customers before slaughter, thereby meeting the exemption standards of the federal law. Now the rancher does not have to jump through the hoops of FMIA and can utilize the smaller mom and pop butchers that still [exist] in most of our small towns.”
For the consumer to take delivery of the meat, and to circumvent the inspection process, the following conditions must be met:
• Received from the farm or ranch where an animal or herd subject to the animal share is located;
• Received by or on behalf of an owner of an animal share;
• Obtained from the particular animal or herd subject to the animal share;
• Ownership of each animal is established prior to slaughter;
• A prominent warning statement that the meat has not been inspected is delivered or displayed on a label affixed to the packaging;
• Information describing the standards used by the farm or ranch regarding herd health, and the processing of meat is provided to the consumer;
• No meat obtained by the consumer shall be sold, donated or commercially distributed; and
• No farmer or rancher shall publish any statement that implies the Department of Agriculture’s approval or endorsement pursuant to an animal share.
While the amendment did not specify if a brand inspection was required, Magagna suggested so that the animal is processed as part of the animal share it may be necessary. — Charles Wallace, WLJ correspondent