Small meat processors whose only work is butchering fowl and game for hunters could be exempt from state regulation.
HF356, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), would exempt such processors from inspection requirements and allow them to operate without a license or a permit, provided their annual sales are less than $15,000.
As amended, the bill was laid over Wednesday by the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. Its companion, SF876, is sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) and awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee.
"This is an important issue in rural Minnesota," Sundin said.
In Minnesota, processors who only butcher animals for consumption by their owners — whether the owners are hunters or farmers — are exempt from the most stringent regulation, though they still are subject to occasional inspections.
These processors cannot sell the meat they butcher and must expressly label it as "not for sale." State law also bars hunters from selling the meat.
The bill would allow such processors to operate without licensure or inspection if they do not add any additional ingredients to the meat or donate it. They would still need to register with the state.
Dan Larson, executive director of Minnesota Rural Counties, said his organization supports the bill but not the $15,000 income limitation. Independent processor Kevin George said the cap could be problematic if his business continues growing.
Brian Schatz, president of the Minnesota Association of Meat Producers, said the income limit would mean a processor could butcher about 150 deer without being regulated.
He said he thinks processors whose sales top $15,000 should be inspected.