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An Introduction to Mobile Slaughter Units

Posted by Denise Amann, Staff Officer, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety Food and Nutrition Farming
Feb 21, 2017

In the United States the slaughter and processing of meat sold in the marketplace must take place at a state or federally-inspected facility.  The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, is responsible for this important task.  While these requirements are important for protecting the public’s health, they can create challenges for farmers, ranchers, and processors looking to do business.

For example, small livestock producers are finding it hard (and at times, cost prohibitive) to transport their livestock the long distances necessary to the closest FSIS-inspected slaughter facility.  This is especially troubling to producers at a time when markets for locally grown and specialty products are becoming more and more profitable.  FSIS-inspected “mobile slaughter units” provide a feasible option for small red meat and poultry producers wanting to provide safe, wholesome product to local and interstate markets.

Mobile slaughter units have the potential to travel from farm to farm but often provide services to regional producers at conveniently located “collection sites.” Capacities vary depending on size of unit and species being slaughtered.  Bruce Dunlop of the Island Grown Farmers’ Cooperative states that in a 25 foot unit, “one butcher can normally process 20-25 goats or sheep per day and two butchers can process around 10 cows per day.”

The first FSIS-inspected mobile slaughter unit was developed by the Lopez Community Land Trust in 2002 with the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative for the community of Lopez Island, located off the coast of Washington State.  Prior to the unit’s arrival, farmers had to go off-island to slaughter their animals and then transport the meat back to the island.  Already small profit margins were being consumed by increasing transportation costs.  Dunlop’s mobile slaughter unit was the most cost effective solution for Lopez Island.  Now, local ranchers are able to efficiently access their local markets.

Currently, there are nine FSIS-inspected mobile slaughter units in the United States.  An FSIS-inspected mobile slaughter unit must comply with the same regulations as a fixed slaughter facility, and the FSIS inspector assigned to the unit verifies the slaughter process in the same way that he or she would in a permanent facility.

Coming up on September 9, FSIS Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training will host an informational session on mobile slaughter units in Carson City, Nevada.  For additional Agency resources available to assist small operators please contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk at 1-877-FSISHelp (374-7435) or InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov.  Additional resources are available from the Cooperative Extension System and the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network.

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Comments

Trinia Greene
Apr 19, 2019

I live in Harlem Georgia and I'm interested in a mobile processing meat slaughtering facility ..Requesting help

Kristopher Lewandowski
Apr 23, 2019

I am looking to get certified for USDA meat processing and want to know the proper steps to take.

Ben Weaver
Apr 24, 2019

@Kristopher Lewandowski - thank you for your comment. Our Small Plant Help Desk can help you with this. Visit the Small Plant Virtual Representative at go.usa.gov/xmKbG. Questions for the Small Plant Help Desk can also be sent to infosource@fsis.usda.gov or call 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435).

Kyra Harty
Jan 23, 2020

I live in Alaska and i'm interested in starting a mobile unit- the biggest problem I think i'll run into is the lack of inspectors in the state and specifically my region. Is it possible to be trained as an inspector and be your own mobile unit?

Ben Weaver
Jan 30, 2020

@Kyra Harty - thank you for your comment. It would be best for you to consult the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Technical Center with this question. They answer questions related to meat and poultry inspection, policy, and starting a business. They’ll be happy to assist you by calling 1-800-233-3935. I hope this helps!

Larry Lyons
Mar 14, 2020

Is there a mobile slaughter unit available in north Texas or southern Oklahoma? If so is there a list or directory for licensed units? Thanks in advance.

Larry Lyons

Adrian Lujan
Apr 19, 2020

Hello, I’m from west Texas and I’m looking for a mobile meat processor to come to our ranch. Is there a website I can visit to search for one?

Marty Earnheart
Apr 30, 2020

My name is Marty Earnheart with the Montana department of Agriculture. Could someone please tell me where to find the rules and regs for having a mobile processing unit? There are many people in Montana who are looking at starting MPU’s. Thank you for your time.

K Lynn
May 01, 2020

I'm in PA and interested in starting a small poultry establishment. Grow, process and be a blee to sell on a smaller scale. How do I begin? Asking for advice on where to start

Ben Weaver
May 01, 2020

@Marty Earnheart - thank you for your comment. Please contact the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at 877-374-7435 to speak to a subject matter expert who can assist you. FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD) answers specific questions related to meat and poultry plant regulations and product labeling, and starting a new business for processing meat and poultry products. Phone hours of operation are 6 am to 4:30 pm CT.

An alternate phone number is 800-233-3935. You can also email questions through the Ask FSIS site, but you will need to establish an account if you haven't done so already. Ask FSIS: askfsis.custhelp.com/app/utils/login_form

Ben Weaver
May 01, 2020

@K Lynn - thank you for your comment. Please contact the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at 877-374-7435 to speak to a subject matter expert who can assist you. FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD) answers specific questions related to meat and poultry plant regulations and product labeling, and starting a new business for processing meat and poultry products. Phone hours of operation are 6 am to 4:30 pm CT.

An alternate phone number is 800-233-3935. You can also email questions through the Ask FSIS site, but you will need to establish an account if you haven't done so already. Ask FSIS: askfsis.custhelp.com/app/utils/login_form

Chris
May 16, 2020

Does a Mobil USDA processor require a USDA inspector with them at all times?

Charlie Lewis
May 17, 2020

I was looking to be able to purchase a mobile processing trailer the could be USDA approved

Mark moore
May 19, 2020

I live the in Washington county Ky .i am a cattle producer. I hear about reduced chain speeds at slaughter houses, bare grocery shelves ,the uthinization of hogs , and food bank shortages . My thought is for USDA to fund purchase of multiple mobile meat processing units , provide trained personnel or training for individuals to operate them. Then purchase as many of these hogs and other surplus animals As possible ,process them and deliver to any applicable food service to feed the hungry. Once the crisis is past the units could be turned over to states to facilitate small farms in underserved areas to produce and market locally grown products .with USDA in charge of this I think it could be done quickly.thank you

Ben Weaver
May 20, 2020

@Chris - thank you for your comment. Please contact the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at 877-374-7435 to speak to a subject matter expert who can assist you. FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD) answers specific questions related to meat and poultry plant regulations and product labeling, and starting a new business for processing meat and poultry products. Phone hours of operation are 6 am to 4:30 pm CT. An alternate phone number is 800-233-3935.

You can also email questions through the Ask FSIS site, but you will need to establish an account if you haven't done so already. Ask FSIS: askfsis.custhelp.com/app/utils/login_form.

Ben Weaver
May 20, 2020

@Charlie Lewis - thank you for your comment. Please contact the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at 877-374-7435 to speak to a subject matter expert who can assist you. FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD) answers specific questions related to meat and poultry plant regulations and product labeling, and starting a new business for processing meat and poultry products. Phone hours of operation are 6 am to 4:30 pm CT. An alternate phone number is 800-233-3935.

You can also email questions through the Ask FSIS site, but you will need to establish an account if you haven't done so already. Ask FSIS: askfsis.custhelp.com/app/utils/login_form.

J h cattle
May 24, 2020

We were wanting to find out what it would cost to put a on Farm facility and have it USDA inspected so we can do our own butchering and processing. We are located in Southwest Missouri.

Ben Weaver
May 26, 2020

@J h cattle - thank you for your comment. Please contact the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at 877-374-7435 to speak to a subject matter expert who can assist you. FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD) answers specific questions related to meat and poultry plant regulations and product labeling, and starting a new business for processing meat and poultry products. Phone hours of operation are 6 am to 4:30 pm CT. An alternate phone number is 800-233-3935.

You can also email questions through the Ask FSIS site, but you will need to establish an account if you haven't done so already. Ask FSIS: askfsis.custhelp.com/app/utils/login_form