If you're in the niche marketing business, selling meat cuts at a farmer's market or by some other method, and you live in a county bordering another state, your market share is limited by your location. Legally, the meat you sell must be state-inspected. But state-inspected meat can only be sold within Indiana, not across state lines.
"It's a real obstacle for small slaughter plants that are located near state borders," says David Bough, a veterinarian and deputy director of the meat and poultry inspection division for the Indiana Board of Animal Health.
Federal inspectors work in large packing plants within the state where meat coming out of the plant may go across state lines to other locations. But most small plants rely on state inspectors for animals and meat that must be state inspected because the customer wants to market the meat through a retail outlet of some sort.
Since the budget was cut for inspectors within BOAH a couple years back, the program has been reorganized. Unlike some other bordering states which dropped their meat inspection service, Indiana was able to maintain an effective system of covering the 100 or so small facilities statewide that process animals. There are 31 inspectors in the field, and six area supervisors. The area supervisors help schedule the inspectors so that they are in plants where animals need to be inspected on certain days of the week. The plants can still kill animals on other days but they are reserved for what's called custom butchering, where the animal is going back home and not to a retail outlet.
Part of the hope is that through a joint training course, some BOAH state inspectors may be certified to also do federal inspections. Then where that's a key issue, those inspectors could apply both stamps to meat that passes the inspections.
This effort is still in its infancy and training stages. Don't count on federal inspections at small butchering facilities in Indiana anytime soon.