It’s a well-known fact that livestock and poultry farming accounts for more than 60 percent of farm income in North Carolina. But what might not be as well known is the number of farmers who are going beyond just raising animals for market.
North Carolina has seen a huge increase in the number of farmers who are raising the animals, taking them to a slaughter plant for processing and then selling the meat directly to consumers. These farmers must be registered as meat handlers by the NCDA&CS, and there has been phenomenal growth in these registrations over the past dozen years. For example, in 2002, there was one farmer registered as a meat handler in the state. Today, there are more than 800 of them.
Consumer demand seems to be driving this growth. They want fresh, wholesome, local meats, and farmers are stepping up to meet this demand.
There’s a process to becoming a registered meat handler. Here’s how it works: A farmer interested in becoming a meat handler calls the department’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Division. An inspector will visit the farm to make sure it meets requirements for storage, labeling and sanitation. The inspector also answers any questions and provides information about food safety practices for handling, transporting and storing meat products. Farmers must take their animals to a state-approved or federally approved plant for slaughter and processing. All animals are inspected onsite before and after slaughter as well as during processing. Farms registered as meat handlers also are subject to random inspections by the department.
Farmers interested in becoming meat handlers should call the Meat and Poultry Inspection Division at 919-707-3180.
Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the growth in the number of farmers registered as meat handlers.
Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.