The emphasis today is on buying meat and other goods that are produced locally. The big box stores still move plenty of product, but a certain clientele are willing to pay a little more for meat if they know who produced it and how it was produced. That opens up a niche market for livestock producers who want to sell retail on the side, either at farmer's markets or out of their own farm.
The catch is that if they're selling meat retail, it needs to be inspected. Just a few years ago the budget for meat inspection was slashed when Gov. Daniels was trying to balance the budget. Some wondered if the meat and poultry inspection division of the Indiana Board of Animal Health would still be able to provide the service. Without it, niche marketers would be in a bind, and some local locker plants could have been forced to close.
Instead, David Bough, deputy director of the division, says they have a crew of 31 inspectors who visit plants, six area supervisors, himself and a director. The difference today is that scheduling inspectors to be at plants when animals that need inspection are to be processed is the name of the game. That's why most locker plants today only kill animals that need inspection one to two days a week.
If an animal requires state inspection, the inspector follows the animal from its live state all the way until the carcass is ready to go into the chilling room, Bough says. He's looking for abnormalities that might signal possible bacterial contamination. Fortunately, most of the animals that people bring in to have butchered for resale today are in good condition. Finding problems like liver flukes, once fairly common, are very rare, he notes.
Custom plants that only slaughter animals for home use don't require state inspectors to be there while the processing is done. However, Bough says, even those plants are inspected at least twice per year to make sure that they are following proper sanitation procedures.