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Agriculture Department Starts Inspections of Slaughter Facilities
July 1, 2003
For immediate release
Contact: Commissioner Robert Spear, 287-3419
AUGUSTA - Under the recently inaugurated meat and poultry inspection program at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, consumers will be able to purchase meat and poultry from state-inspected processing facilities, and farmers will benefit from increased sales as these facilities process locally raised animals, Commissioner Robert W. Spear said today.
“This is major step for animal agriculture in Maine. Our new program will allow farmers greater access to inspected slaughter facilities,” Spear said. “For years growth in the livestock and poultry sectors has been constrained by the small number of facilities in Maine inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
Livestock is raised on about 2,000 farms in Maine and poultry on about 700. Cash receipts for those operations amounted to nearly $50 million. In the past, farmers could have their animals slaughtered at federally inspected facilities or at facilities exempt from federal inspection, which severely limited their sales options. They will now be able to market products bearing the seal of state inspection.
“People should look for product with the state or federal inspection seal,” Spear said. “They can be assured it has met the highest standards of food safety inspection.”
The state inspectors will use the same food-safety standards as their federal counterparts and the program will complement the one administered by the USDA. Products processed at state-inspected facilities can only be sold within the state, which will appeal to farmers with small operations and local markets. Only products inspected by the USDA can enter interstate commerce.
The USDA inspects six slaughter facilities. Another 39 facilities are exempt from inspection. Seven have chosen to use state inspectors - six slaughter livestock and one handles poultry.
“They range from Kennebunk to Mars Hill and west to Mercer,” Spear said. “It has been a major goal of ours to improve access. I’m glad that facilities across the state made the decision to come under state inspection.”
Still in its early stages the Red Meat and Poultry Inspection Program consists of a manager, veterinarian and two inspectors. The USDA will reimburse the state 50 percent of the program costs.
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