Meat Processing Capacity & Expansion
Mobile slaughter operators (MSOs) provide a custom service for ranchers throughout the state. They are able to slaughter animals on site, so owners do not have to haul the animal to a slaughter facility. Farm Bureau sponsored legislation in 2021 to open this market to all livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, and swine) in order to help small ranchers accommodate local customers.
AB 2114 (Bigelow, 2018) created the exemption for MSOs that pertained only to beef cattle and did not extend the same flexibility to other agricultural animals slaughtered for human consumption, including goats, sheep, and pigs. While consumer meat preferences continue to change, AB 888 (Levine, 2021) a CAFB sponsored measure, provides greater flexibility for California’s sheep, goat, and pig producers who provide fresh, locally grown and raised products to those Californians preferring a different animal meat product.
Previous law only allowed a Mobile Slaughter Operator (MSO) to harvest sheep, goats, or swine for an individual that also owns the property where the cattle are harvested so long as the meat is consumed solely by the owner, their family or invited guests and is not resold. Individuals seeking to purchase an animal for their own use and consumption but do not have an appropriate location to harvest the animal must currently transport the animal for slaughter to a state or federally licensed facility. This could be time consuming, and a licensed facility is typically far in distance from a consumer’s or producer’s premises. The need to transport an animal that will be entirely consumed by the purchaser to a licensed facility to be harvested is just one additional hurdle for individuals who wish to consume locally raised meat.
This new law provides a market that builds community resilience by supporting local meat production. AB 888 is not a vehicle for replacing any of California’s brick-and-mortar slaughter operations; however, COVID-19 has exposed systemic weaknesses in both California’s and the nation’s food supply chain. AB 888 is providing another link in the food supply chain for individuals desiring meat from sheep, pigs, and goats. AB 888 also has safety assurances in place which does not allow for the sale of the meat by any individual. The meat must be used exclusively for the consumption by the individual who purchased the animal for slaughter, members of the owner’s family, the owner’s employees or nonpaying guests.
The current market is severely impacted as MSOs statewide are booked out for months – forcing ranchers to anticipate slaughter numbers and animal weights months in advance. CAFB supports funding opportunities for meat and poultry infrastructure in California. Additional funding could encourage entry into this market – creating new jobs and increased access to locally sourced meat. Funding could be used for facility maintenance, equipment updates, and regulatory compliance. In addition to investing into the MSO’s tools for the trade, additional funds can be used toward staff and training. AB 888 creates a new requirement for MSOs to become licensed meat inspectors. This would require the MSO to attend the proper training and take an exam in order to fulfill the mandated requirement. There are only 52 MSOs in the state – with many planning to retire in the coming years. Investing in increased education, training, and outreach could help to build this number to meet the needs of this underserved community.