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New bill will expand opportunities for small meat processors 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

United States Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Peter Welch (D-VT) have recently introduced the Direct Interstate Retail Exemptions for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act, which would allow meat and poultry products inspected by State Meat and Poultry Inspection programs to be sold by retail stores, restaurants, or similar retail-type establishments over the internet and shipped by a carrier in commerce. 

Currently, under the inspection programs, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) allows states that meet certain requirements to inspect meat and poultry. The state-inspected products are currently limited to intrastate commerce unless a state opts into a separate Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program.

"During the pandemic, we saw first-hand the resiliency challenges of our food sector - millions of people stopped going to restaurants and started looking to cattle producers to source their beef directly from the farm. Unfortunately, the number of USDA-inspected facilities needed to meet consumer demand was lacking," Senator Marshall said. "The DIRECT Act creates a small and simple exemption to allow state-inspected butchers to sell meat and poultry online directly to a household consumer. If Kansans can buy meat directly from my butcher, my butcher should be able to sell their meat to consumers out-of-state as well."

The DIRECT Act amends the retail exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act to allow processors, butchers, or other retailers to sell retail quantities (300 lbs. of beef, 100 lbs. of pork, 27.5 lbs. of lamb) of Meat and Poultry Inspection Program State Inspected Meat online or to consumers across state lines. Many of these marketing methods increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers have recognized the convenience of buying local beef online. 

The DIRECT Act is supported by those in the meat industry. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) celebrated the introduction, stating “American consumers are buying beef in new ways, whether it is directly from local farms and ranches or online through e-commerce,” said NCBA President-Elect Mark Eisele, a Wyoming cattle producer. “The DIRECT Act allows smaller processors to sell beef in different and innovative ways, supporting cattle producers while also ensuring the safety of our product. NCBA is proud to support the DIRECT Act and we thank Sens. Marshall and Welch for their efforts to strengthen the cattle and beef industry.” 

Read the DIRECT Act here