On-Farm Poultry Slaughter Guide for the New York Farmer

Rincker Law Food & Ag Law 1 Comment

These are my chickens at the farmhouse that I lived in during graduate school at the University of Illinois.

I want to commend the Cornell Small Farms Program for its publication titled “On-Farm Poultry Slaughter Guidelines” (available on its resources page).  I reviewed the guide in its entirety in preparation for the local food CLE that was scheduled at Pace Law School in October (rescheduled for March 13th due to Hurricane Sandy).  I recommend the guide to any farmer who is harvesting less than 1000 chickens (or 250 turkeys) on his/her farm each year.

In way of background, a New York poultry producer who processes and sells less than 1000 chickens or 250 turkeys (i.e., 1 turkey = 4 chickens) may be subject to the 1000 Bird Limit Exemption under the Poultry Product Inspection Act (“PPIA”), which requires producers to slaughter poultry in a USDA inspected facility.  A farmer may harvest and process chickens and turkeys that he/she raised on farm and may distribute this poultry without mandatory inspection if the following five criteria is met pursuant to under PPIA § 464(c)(4), 9 C.F.R. §  381.10(c), and 9 C.F.R. §  381.175:

  1. The poultry producer slaughters no more than 1,000 healthy birds of his/her own farm in a calendar year for distribution as human food
  2. The poultry producer does not engage in buying or selling poultry products other than those produced from poultry raised on his/her farm;
  3. The slaughter and processing are conducted under sanitary standards, practices, and procedures that produce poultry products that are sound, clean, not adulterated or misbranded, and fit for human food;
  4. The poultry producer keeps the required records; and,
  5. The poultry product does not move in interstate commerce (i.e., exchange or transportation of the poultry product stays within the state of New York).

Said exemption applies to so long as the slaughtering and processing are both completed on-site.  The slaughter equipment used may be owned, rented or provided in the form of a Mobile Poultry Processing Unit (“MPPU”).  Please note that this exemption applies per farm – not per farmer.  If a New York “farm” is harvesting more than 1,000 chickens or 250 turkeys in an on-farm slaughter facility, then it is required to have an Article 5-A License; otherwise, it must harvest its birds at a USDA processing facility.

Although sales and transportation of poultry products under this exemption are only required to stay intrastate (i.e., within New York), NYSDAM’s 2009 guidelines suggest that farms operating under the 1000 bird exemption should maintain control of its product through the sale directly to the consumer by limiting sales to on-farm outlets, roadside stands, or farmers’ markets.  Thus, a poultry farmers operating under this exemption should not sell directly to a hotel, restaurant or other type of institution.

The publication does an excellent job discussing (among other things) record keeping, food packaging, food labeling, food safety, processing guidelines, and insurance. I highly suggest New York farmers who are harvesting under the magic threshold read this guide and speak to an attorney to discuss your operation.

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