What is the PRIME Act?

The PRIME Act (H.R. 2859/ S. 1620) would allow ranchers and farmers to slaughter their livestock at local slaughterhouses instead of driving hours away to USDA-approved slaughterhouses—many of which are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed, the PRIME Act would relieve our nation’s meat shortages during the pandemic, help small ranchers and farmers, allow consumers to buy local, and promote animal welfare—all while maintaining a safe food supply.

Outdated Federal Law Creates Barriers to Selling Local Meat

Americans want to buy fresh meat from local farmers. But federal law prevents small-scale farmers and ranchers from selling meat in their communities unless they use USDA-approved meat processing plants—the same plants the nation’s largest meat producers use.

In recent years, the number of available USDA-approved meat processing plants have declined, creating an overly centralized system where only about 50 of these slaughterhouses are responsible for 98 percent of the Country’s meat production. This forces small farmers and ranchers to book appointments months in advance and then travel hours—often across state lines—to slaughter their animals.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has made this problem even worse. As the pandemic spread, the shutting of only a few USDA-approved meat processing plants caused chaos for the livestock owners depending on them. Farmers and ranchers had no choice but to euthanize millions of animals. And their plight has been felt nationwide through unnecessary meat shortages and surging meat prices.

Custom Slaughterhouses Offer A Safe Processing Alternative

The PRIME Act increases access to slaughterhouses. It allows small-scale farmers and ranchers to slaughter and process their own animals closer to home at “custom” slaughterhouses, which are small facilities regulated by state law instead of the USDA. The Act does this by expanding a current exemption to the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) that allows people to use custom slaughterhouses for meat that is for their personal use. The exemption would be expanded to allow meat from custom slaughterhouses to be sold directly to consumers and at grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, and other establishments within the state.

The PRIME Act does not require states to allow the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses. Instead, it simply removes the federal ban on selling this meat. States would then be free to pass their own laws allowing the sale of custom slaughtered meat directly to consumers and retailers within the state.

► Using custom slaughterhouses would not jeopardize safety. These facilities are regulated and inspected by the state and have been safely used for decades.

► States can further regulate the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses to provide additional safety protections.

► A similar exemption to the FMIA already exists for poultry, and farmers have safely sold their poultry to instate consumers and retailers for the last 40 years.

Why We Support the PRIME Act

We have fought for people’s individual rights to sell, buy, grow, and eat the food of their choice for the last 30 years. The PRIME Act will help thousands of farmers support their families and bring fresh and local food to countless consumers. This common-sense reform will benefit the environment, community, and economy. Livestock farmers are uniquely positioned to provide meat to their local supply chain at a time their community needs it most— they just need the flexibility to do so. To read more about why we support the PRIME Act, read our Letter to Congress.

Frequently Asked Questions About The PRIME Act

Are you a farmer or a rancher that wants to sign on in support of the PRIME Act?

Call you congressman and tell them you support the PRIME Act! You can find your Senator here. You can find a sample message to give your congressman on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance’s PRIME Act page here.

Do you support the PRIME Act? Tell us your story:

PC: PRIME Act Intake Form

We will not share your contact information or your story without your permission.

Learn More About IJ’s Efforts to Expand Food Freedom