Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have introduced the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act, or the PRIME Act. The bill, if it becomes law, would give states the option of adjusting their rules and regulations to enable increased slaughter capacity within the state, which should create market opportunities for farmers, reports the Portland Press Herald. One regulation the states could change is the option of allowing custom slaughterhouses to process carcasses for commercial sale. Currently, those facilities can process carcasses for personal use, but they are not required to have an inspector on site during process, and any meat processes is strictly meant for personal use.
In King’s state of Maine, there are five meat processors in Maine that are inspected by the USDA and eight that are inspected by the state. Those facilities do not have the capacity to meet the demand for local foods. There are 15 custom slaughterhouses in Maine.
“Local agriculture is a bright spot in the Maine economy and one area that is growing,” King said. “The average age of farmers is going down, and there are a lot of new small farms. We want to encourage that kind of growth,” he said.
He added that the issue for him is one of state’s rights.
“We’re talking about the state protecting the health and safety of its own citizens,” he said. “We believe in Maine we are capable of doing that.”
The bill is expected to be opposed by large meat processors and industry organizations. The North American Meat Institute released a statement opposing the bill.
“North American Meat Institute members care about the wholesomeness of the food products they market to American consumers,” Eric Mittenthal, the trade group’s vice president of public affairs, said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Federal inspection, or state inspection compliant with the same standards, plays a vital role in ensuring that outcome. Food safety standards should not be compromised for the convenience of a market segment.”