Labeling and Meat Packaging Workshop
Presented by Clarence Davis, NYSDAM FSIS Food Inspector
October 21, 2008
NYSDAM= New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
FSIS= Food Safety and Inspection Service
Davis started off with mission statements. Davis also made the following statement, “We are not big-guy
government. We want to make sure you know what the right things to do are, and [that you] do them.”
Davis provided a brief history to some of the regulations. Regulations were revised in 2006, and again in 2008.
He also stated later that “Regulations should not be interpreted by those they regulate”.
NYSDAM mission: To foster a competitive food and agriculture industry to benefit producers and consumers;
To protect the consumer; To protect and support NY food and agricultural industries; and to provide a level
FSIS Mission: To help ensure a safe and properly labeled food supply and to contribute to the orderly marketing
of food and farm products in NYS.
The following is Davis’ presentation. I’m not going to write Davis said this or that. Davis either said the
following or it was printed in his handouts. I asked a lot of clarifying questions along the way. Davis’ answers
are included as parenthetical text. The following are his words:
NYSDAM has adopted the federal guidelines. Therefore, “state requirements adopted under state law may not
differ from or conflict with existing federal labeling laws and regulations”. USDA laws regulate meat, and FDA
laws do not apply (this might need to be qualified, as non-amenable meat processed into a value added product
like summer sausage was previously under FDA law). In most cases this is true, but one exception is with
homemade jams and jellies which do not need nutritional labeling.
Labels used on product for sale must be pre-approved before being used on product packaging. Labels must be
submitted to NYSDAM by a professional label maker. (The farmer can not submit the label for approval).
The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) explicitly preempt
state laws regulating labeling of meat and poultry products by providing that “marking, labeling, packaging or
ingredient requirements in addition to, or different than those made under the Acts, may not be imposed by any
State”. In other words, whatever the Feds say, goes.
More on each of the individual requirements are included following this list, but for now, the USDA FSIS
Mandatory Labeling Requirements [which have been adopted by NYS] are:
• Product name (example- Chuck Roast, Top Round, Chicken Breasts)
• Inspection legend and establishment number (For USDA the round purple stamp if amenable,
the triangular purple stamp if non-amenable. For 5-A the following wording must be on the label
or carton, “Processed at a NYSDAM Article 5-A Facility” and plant number is optional.
• Handling statement- “Keep refrigerated”, “Keep frozen”, “Perishable- Keep refrigerated or
frozen” must be on the principal display panel. Additional safe handling instructions also
• Net weight statement- this includes packed on date, sell by date, price per pound, and net
weight. (there are a few exceptions to including all this on a label, which will be discussed later).
• Ingredient statement- not required if a whole-muscle product.
• Address line- this is the address of the farmer / retailer/ distributor. (Don’t put farmer’s address
if farmer is not doing the retailing or distributing.) Details on what constitutes an address
• Nutrition facts- not essential for raw (fresh or frozen) meat.
• Safe handling instructions
Inspection Legend- If processed and sold at the 20-C establishment it was processed at, then an inspection
legend is not needed.
Net Weight Statement- This is also governed by Regulation 221.1-9 (clarify reg #) of NYS Weight and
Measures. Bulk meat can be sold without a label at a 20-C retail establishment without a net weight statement,
HOWEVER, the price must be posted for the consumer to see. Frozen meat does not require a sell-by date. Sell-
By dates are determined by charts. (Where are these charts located?). Some products can be sold by the package
(like sausage) as opposed to by the pound, but in this case the net weight MUST be on the package.
Address Line- FSIS requires labels of meat and poultry products to include the name or trade name and place
of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor for whom the product is prepared. The address should
reflect the business or farm which will deliver the product to the end consumer. In other words, if the
manufacturer or packer such as a 20-C plant sells directly to the end consumer at his/her retail establishment,
then the address should be the 20-C manufacturer/packer. If the farmer is acting as a distributor, then the
address should be the farm’s address. If a USDA plant is manufacturing/packing for a distributor, the address
should be the distributor.
The name of the distributor must be preceded by a phrase such as “Prepared for _______”, or
“Distributed by _____”.
An additional “Raised by_____” may be added, but can not replace the distributor line.
If the business is listed in a telephone or city directory, the information listed for the place of business
must include the city, state and postal zip code. If the business in not listed in a telephone or city directory, the
street address must also be included in the address line.
Handling STATEMENT- Packaged products that required special handling to maintain their wholesome
condition must have prominently displayed on the principal display panel, the applicable handling statement:
“Keep Refrigerated”, “Keep Frozen”, “Perishable- Keep Refrigerated or Frozen”.
Safe Handling INSTRUCTIONS- Safe handling instructions are required if the meat or poultry component of
a product is raw or partially cooked (NOT considered Ready to Eat (RTE)).
Required if the product is destined for household consumer or institutional users (including hotels and
Meat and poultry products intended for further processing at another official establishment (state or
federal) are exempt from this requirement. For example a USDA slaughtered cow going to a 20-C cutting plant.
Whole, halved and quartered carcasses are not considered packaged product and do not need a handling
Part II—Country of Origin Labeling
7 CFR Part 60 for Fish and Shellfish Only. Published October 5, 2004, and effective April 5, 2008.
7 CFR Part 65 for All Other Commodities. Published August 1, 2008 and effective September 30, 2008.
Requirements do not apply to covered commodities produced or packaged before September 30, 2008. During
the six month period following the effective date of the regulation, AMS will focus its resources on education
and outreach or what is being termed, “informed compliance”.
Components of the Interim Final Rule (IFR) include:
• Who must label
• What must be labeled
• Determining origin
• Record Keeping
• Compliance and Enforcement
Who must label? All retailers. A retailer is defined as any person licensed as a retailer under the Perishable
Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). The PACA defines a retailer includes only those retailers handling
fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables with an invoice value of at least $230,000 annually. HOWEVER,
(according to Davis) all individuals selling meat and poultry are considered retailers, regardless of the amount
sold. (Currently there is confusion as to the farmers role- if a farmer, marketer, or retailer. Davis indicated that
this interim definition of retailer will be redefined in the final rule so as to ultimately require all individuals
selling meat to comply.) If an individual sells product to Canada, a different section of the rule will be required
to be followed. COOL compliance is required.
What must be labeled?
• Muscle cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork.
• Ground beef, ground lamb, ground chicken, ground goat, and ground pork.
• Fish and shellfish (both wild and farm raised).
• Perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables).
• Peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts.
This list covers amenable meat. Previously, non-amenable farm raised game meat labels must have included the
words “product of the USA” on their labels, if it was not imported product. (This needs further clarification at
Exemptions: The COOL law exempts food service establishments, including those within retail establishments,
which includes restaurants, cafeterias, lunch rooms, food stands, bars, salad bars and delicatessens. Food
enterprises located within retail establishments that provide ready-to-eat foods are also exempt.
Additional information on COOL is available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/cool . Questions can be submitted to
Part III Packaging, Handling and Storage
All packaging materials in direct contact with food must be safe for their intended use under the Federal Food,
Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Meat and poultry products may not be packaged in a container which is
composed of any substances which may adulterate the contents or be injurious to health. (Garbage bags can not
be used. Only FDA approved food grade packaging is allowed.) Packaging materials for meat or poultry must
be accompanied or covered by a guaranty or statement of assurance from the packaging supplier. The guaranty
must state that the material complies with the FFDCA. It must also state the brand name, supplier, and
conditions for use, including temperature, and other limits. Farmers who are direct marketing should ask their
processors for a copy of this guaranty or assurance statement. FSIS monitors the packaging material used in all
meat and poultry plants. The plants must maintain a file containing guarantees for all packaging materials in the
plant. This file must be open to FSIS officials at all times. NYSDAM does not routinely inspect or monitor meat
and poultry packaging, unless there are consumer complaints or if a blatant violation is noticed on a routine
Vacuum packaging reduced the amount of air from a package and hermetically seals the package so that a near-
perfect vacuum remains inside. Only 20-c retail food-stores are licensed to vac-pac. A 20-c plant without a
retail food store is considered for variance on a case-by-case basis, but a HACCP plan will most likely be
required with the application. 5-A plants may also apply for a variance for vacuum packaging of raw meat (no
poultry) with the submission of a HACCP plan. Barrier Films and Meat Trays are acceptable packaging. Freezer
paper is also acceptable.
HACCP plans and transportation.
Some operations move product from plant to plant before final retail packing. If product is moved from more
than a USDA kill floor to a 20-C cutting/packing house, a HACCP plan will most likely be required.
If product is stored at 0°F, then the frozen food remains safe indefinitely. The only concern is quality. Freezer
burn, and broken cryovac seals may pose an issue in long-term storage. The following chart is a guideline only:
Product Months in Storage
Bacon and Sausage 1 to 2
Meat or poultry 2 to 3
Ham 1 to 2
Meat, uncooked roasts 4 to 12
Meat, uncooked steaks or chops 4 to 12
Meat, uncooked ground 3 to 4
Poultry, uncooked whole 12
Poultry, uncooked parts 9
Poultry, uncooked giblets 3 to 4
Poultry, cooked 4
Wild game, uncooked 8 to 12
Part IV Direct Farm Marketing Activities
Direct Farm Marketing Activities include: roadside stands, farm markets, farmers’ market, U-Pick or Pick Your
Own Operations. Farm marketing is considered by NYSDAM to be part of a “farm operation”. According to
NYSDAM, farm marketing is NOT retailing. Direct farm marketing activities are protected from
unreasonable local restrictions by Agriculture and Markets Law (AML) Section 305- when conducted on the
farm. Direct farm marketing should be allowed in all areas within a county adopted, state certified agricultural
district. (You must be in an official agricultural district to qualify.) However, the degree of regulation of the
various forms of direct farm marketing that is considered unreasonable depends on the nature of the proposed
activities and the size and complexity of the proposed structure. (You can’t go build a large scale grocery store
and call it direct farm marketing). A requirement to apply for a permit is generally not unreasonable. A permit is
needed even for a small and simple farm stand. Depending upon the size and scope of the retail facility, greater
regulation, such as site plan review, may be reasonable.
Produce- Farmers can import produce from other farms to sell at their farm stands to increase the diversity of
products offered or to bridge periods of low supply of commodities produced on farm. Product diversity may
attract potential customers to a roadside stand or farm market. NYSDAM believes the sale of some agricultural
products grown off the farm should be allowed, but has not established a percentage of on-farm versus off-farm
products for that purpose.
Poultry- Any person may direct market from his or her farm not more than 250 turkeys or 1000 birds of all
other species raised by him/her on their own farm during the calendar year. (You can slaughter and offer for
sale 250 turkeys or 1000 birds which you raised, you slaughtered on your farm and you offer for sale on your
farm. You can’t take birds you slaughter off the farm- they can not be sold at a farmers market.) Four birds of
other species shall be deemed the equivalent of one turkey. Persons cannot engage in buying or selling poultry
products other than those produced from poultry raised on his/her own farm. (You can’t buy poultry from
someone else and sell at your direct farm market.)
Meat- Any red amenable meat sold through direct farm marketing must be slaughtered and processed under
inspection. Any meat or poultry sold at retail at a farmer’s market MUST be slaughtered and processed under
USDA inspection. Meat or poultry products may be slaughtered under USDA inspection and processed under
an Article 20-C food processing license providing that the carcass owner has a 20-C food processing license.
(You can’t sell 20-C processed meat at a farmers’ market if you do not have a 20-C license. The 20-C processed
meat sold by an individual at a farmers’ market must be meat owned and processed by that individual. You
can’t have a 20-C license and sell meat processed by another 20-C plant.)
Questions and Answers:
Q: Can fresh meat be sold at a farmers market?
A: Fresh meat can be sold at a farmers’ market if it is properly inspected, labeled, held at 40°F or below and the
farmers’ market regulations allow it.
Q: Can I sell frozen inspected meat, from my own animals out of a freezer at my home?
A: As long as the meat is inspected. However, depending upon the volume a wholesalers license may be
needed. (Generally one freezer is allowed. More than one freezer is questioned.) For poultry there is a dollar
amount attached to the limitation. There is no dollar limitation for amenable meat. This is governed by the state.
Storage is monitored and inspected by NYSDAM. If any product is not your own (raised by you), then you
must have a wholesalers license regardless of volume.
Q: What about record keeping?
A: We’re driving the custom processors nuts with the records we’re requiring them to keep. Some of this stems
from farmers who complained they weren’t getting all their meat back. Some of this stems from bio-terrorism
record keeping requirements, some of this is COOL. This is in part why Shirks in Dundee decided to give up
USDA processing. Plants aren’t the only ones required to keep records. Farms need to keep records too. Farms
should be using lot numbers. They should date product as it comes in. They should track product in and product
out and they should be using a first-in-first-out (FIFO) inventory system. If we ever get a complaint because
someone got sick on a product, then the more information the farmer can give the inspector, the better it will be
for the farmer. Be sure to cover yourself with good labeling and good record-keeping. Be a responsible
merchandiser and keep records- track your inventory.
Q: What about sales to restaurants?
A: If a product is USDA slaughtered and USDA processed then a farmer can sell primal cuts, steaks and chops.
The farmer must also have a wholesaler license to sell to restaurants. If the product is USDA slaughtered but
20-C processed then the product can only be sold on the farm or at a farmers market, but it can NOT be sold to
a restaurant, hotel or institution. Any meat in commerce that is sold to a Hotel, Restaurant or Institution (HRI)
must have an anti-mortem inspection only available at a USDA facility. The only way to sell poultry to a
restaurant is USDA slaughter and processing or thru the 5-A Small Enterprise Exemption.
Q: What about sales to health-food stores?
A: Farmers can sell whole muscle meats (like steaks) or sausages if the product is both USDA inspected (at
slaughter) and USDA processed. 20-C prepared sausages can not be sold [by farmers] to retail stores.
Q: What about using a 5-A plant for poultry?
A: Article 5-A regulations were changed on August 5th. From then on only USDA plants were allowed for
poultry sales. The 5-A is for exotic animals and birds (emu), or rabbits. There was a time that NYSDAM
allowed poultry to be processed under 5-A, but that is no longer allowed. A 20-C plant can process poultry but
they must be killed at a USDA kill floor. This poses a problem because of the facility and separation
requirements associated with each of the various plants. A small enterprise exemption is still allowed but the
USDA has not provided NYSDAM with a list of such facilities in NY. 5-A plants with the small enterprise
exemption can process poultry for HRI (hotels, restaurants and institution) only. The birds processed at a 5-A
plant can not be sold retail or at a farmers market.
Q: What about Halal slaughtering?
A: It can be done on the farm but the farmer can not assist in any way, except to furnish knives. If the farmer
helps in any way, he/she must have a custom exempt operators license. Farmer can allow the skinning of the
animal on the farm, but then the farmer must contact DEC to obtain a permit for composting. If the customer
takes the animal from the farm with the hide on, then the customer must contact the DEC regarding disposal of
the hide. Halal slaughtering is coming under question for humane concerns.