(Cartoon by Greg Kearney)
(Cartoon by Greg Kearney)
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry announced that Maine has signed a new agreement with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) which will allow selected Maine slaughterhouses and processors to wholesale their products in every state and in the District of Columbia. Plant applications will be accepted beginning December 1.

Up until now, Maine slaughterhouses and processors could only slaughter and process animals for wholesale and/or retail sales within the state of Maine. Maine is only the fifth state to receive one of these CIS agreements, and the only state in New England or on the East Coast to have been offered one by USDA-FSIS.

“The new Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) agreement will open new markets for meat and poultry establishments and Maine producers,” said Governor LePage in a news release. “It will provide access to new markets to sell our products beyond Maine borders and to local businesses with out-of-state locations (i.e., Hannaford, Shaw’s, Walmart, etc.). The CIS will also potentially double the number of local options for livestock producers who want to be able to harvest and process their animals within Maine but sell their products out of state.”

According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the change is important because:

• Maine livestock producers who utilize state-inspected plants were previously limited to in-state sales, but will be able to sell out of state and online if their plant joins the program

• Maine slaughterhouses and processors currently serve hundreds of livestock producers whose markets will open up nationwide if their slaughterhouse joins the program

• Livestock producers and slaughterhouses will now be able to sell their product to grocery stores with out-of-state locations (Hannaford, Walmart, etc.) — prior to the implementation of this agreement, they were limited to stores that only operate within Maine.

• Maine livestock producers who currently must utilize USDA plants because they have established accounts out of state could now use more conveniently located state plants — the only slaughterhouse in Sagadahoc County, for example, is a State of Maine inspected plant.

• CIS complements the food “locavore” movement, the effort to feature food that is grown, raised and produced locally by giving Maine livestock and poultry producers more local options

• An organic poultry establishment starting under state inspection in January is already planning on joining the CIS program, which will not only make it the only organic poultry processor in the state of Maine but one of the few that can sell organically processed poultry in the Northeast.

• Livestock producers in neighboring states can take their animals to selected Maine slaughterhouses and processors if they choose, because the product can be sold back home in their own state.

• Livestock producers and Maine slaughterhouses could now potentially service contracts that require federally inspected meat and poultry, because all meat from a CIS slaughterhouse will have both a state and federal mark of inspection on it.

• States with CIS programs and their selected establishments are also eligible to expand into exports, which would allow sales of Maine processed meat and poultry to Canada and beyond.