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Animals | Home & Garden | June 7, 2018

Livestock Butchering Options

Ask anyone who owns livestock about butchering and you’ll likely get a few opinions and recommendations based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) laws as well as state and local guidelines. Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are several options for livestock owners, including doing it yourself, choosing a federally inspected slaughterhouse or mobile slaughter unit, or sending your own meat to the butcher. What you choose can depend on how many animals you have, how close you are to a facility, and whether or not you’re selling the meat.

The Legal Side

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) enforces the Federal Meat Inspection Act. This law ensures that any meat, poultry, and processed egg products sold follow inspection guidelines. Essentially, that act is there to protect the public as well as livestock owners.


There are thousands of establishments that produce meat, poultry, and or/egg products regulated by the FSIS in the U.S. The federal agency keeps an updated list here. According to the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, some facilities can provide a veterinary examination before and after slaughter, a clean environment, as well as proper disposal of the blood, skin and non-edible parts of the animal.

While there are a lot of slaughterhouses with federal and/or state inspectors located across the U.S., these facilities are not always easily accessible for every farmer or rancher. That’s where mobile slaughter units have made a positive impact.

Mobile Slaughter

According to the USDA, the first FSIS-inspected mobile slaughter unit was developed in 2002 by the Lopez Community Land Trust with the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative out of Bow, Washington. Before its creation, livestock owners on Lopez Island had to travel by boat to slaughter their animals. It was costly and time-consuming.

Today’s FSIS-inspected mobile units, while not nearly as abundant as slaughterhouses with a grant of inspection, make it feasible for small producers to bring safe products to the marketplace.

Typically, mobile slaughter units are large trailers were the livestock can be slaughtered and processed on site. Some companies claim to be able to process up to 10 cows under inspection per day from a trailer. Those who use mobile slaughter units often say that the animals are less stressed because they are on their own property. Additionally, it can be more cost effective and make it easier to bring products to market.

Do it Yourself

Of course, if you aren’t selling your meat and you plan to eat it yourself, you are allowed a personal/individual-use exemption from federal regulations. This means you can either slaughter the animal yourself or hire someone to do it for you. You can also work with a custom-exempt establishment (butcher) to slaughter and prepare the meat for you. According to the FSIS, meat processed this way cannot be sold and can only be consumed by the owners of the livestock.

Livestock Owners Love Coastal

Stop by your Northwest owned and operated Coastal today where you’ll find everything you need for your livestock, from feed and waterers to meat grinders. You’ll also find knowledgeable folks who are always happy to point you in the right direction.

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