Safe Food, Local Meats

Safe Food, Local MeatsNew funding means more support for Minnesota meat processing facilities.

Last month, we told you about the recent bill passage that made it possible for inmates to obtain butcher licensures while serving time—not only providing them an opportunity to thrive after their sentences are complete, but also to support the small meat processing industry in Minnesota which is at risk of losing a majority of its workers in the next decade.

More progress recently came in the form of new funding for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to hire more meat and food inspectors. The additional capacity means that small meat processing businesses will have more opportunity to expand their businesses through expansion or diversification. It also means that existing inspectors—previously spread too thin across the state—will be more available for technical assistance and support the businesses in compliance when new regulations are implemented.

“This is a great move for food safety,” said Nicole Neeser, Acting Director of the Dairy and Meat Inspection Division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “Meat inspection is a much more intense kind of inspection and requires that processors are working to ensure their products are as safe as possible.”

To date, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has already added three positions—with the hope to add up to two more. The new inspectors are located in the southeastern, central, and metro regions of the state.

This funding was the result of the efforts by a number of industry groups, including a number of local food groups and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture working together on a solution. “This kind of partnership benefits everyone involved,” Neeser said, “Especially consumers, who can have confidence that meat processors and regulatory agencies are working together to help ensure food is safe.”

The news supports a number of Food Charter strategies, including

  • Streamline food safety and licensing protocols, and provide training for small and emerging businesses (such as growers and processors) on good agricultural practices, food safety, licensing, inspections, and related regulations.
  • Give inspectors flexible tools for the type, size, and risk of food business.

If you have a progress story you’d like to report for coverage in a future Minnesota Food Charter publication, contact us.