All across the United States, people are making food at home to sell in their communities. Together, they form a small but growing industry—the homemade or “cottage food” industry. The movement fits within a larger trend toward healthy eating and responsible sourcing, as consumers take greater interest in where their food comes from and who makes it. Selling cottage food has been legal in Iowa for many years.
In 2022, the state greatly expanded opportunities for homemade food businesses with the passage of HF 2431. The 2022 reform also renamed the state’s two regulatory categories: Home Food Operations became Cottage Food businesses, while Iowa Home Bakeries were renamed as Iowa Home Food Processing Establishments. Iowa homemade food producers can determine which program works best for them.
|Grades For Homemade Food Laws||Iowa Cottage Food||Iowa Home Food Processing Establishment|
|Food Varieties Grade||C-||A-|
|Sales and Venue Restrictions Grade||A-||A-|
|Regulatory Burdens Grade||A+||C|
For more information about how the state was graded, see the Baking Bad report page.
Iowa cottage food types
|Food Varieties||Iowa Cottage Food||Iowa Home Food Processing Establishment|
|What Shelf-Stable Foods Can I Sell in Iowa?||No restrictions||No restrictions|
|Can I Sell Refrigerated Baked Goods in Iowa?||No||Yes|
|Can I Sell Meat in Iowa?||No||Yes|
|Can I Sell Acidified or Pickled Foods in Iowa?||Yes||No|
|Can I Sell Low-Acid Canned Goods in Iowa?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Fermented Foods in Iowa?||No||Yes|
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Iowa cottage food producers may sell homemade food that is not time- or temperature-controlled for safety. Generally this refers to shelf-stable foods that do not require refrigeration. Examples include breads, rolls, biscuits, pastries, cookies, candies, confections, fruit pies, jams, jellies, preserves, cereals, trail mixes and granola. The 2022 law also legalized the sale of acidified and pickled foods, including salsa and sauerkraut.
Meanwhile, people with an Iowa Home Food Processing Establishment permit may sell fermented foods as well as baked goods that require temperature control for safety, like soft pies, cheesecakes and baked goods with custard or cream fillings. This license also allows the sale of personally-raised poultry of under 1,000 birds and even the sale of products containing red meat, provided the meat was purchased from a butcher that processes its own meat. Curiously, unlike the state’s cottage food category, the Home Food Processing Establishment license does not allow the sale of pickled or acidified foods.
However, Iowa does not allow either group to sell low-acid canned foods, fish, game animals, unpasteurized juices, raw sprout seeds, bottled water, packaged ice, milk, or milk products.
Iowa cottage food venues
|Sales and Venue Restrictions||Iowa Cottage Food||Iowa Home Food Processing Establishment|
|Annual Sales Cap||None||$50,000|
|Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Direct to Consumers in Iowa?||At farmers’ markets, roadside stands, events, and from home.||At farmers’ markets, roadside stands, events, and from home.|
|Can I Sell Homemade Food to Retail Outlets Like Restaurants and Grocery Stores?||No||Yes|
Thanks to a 2022 reform, both types of homemade food businesses can sell directly to consumers in private residences, at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, special events, and online. Those running a Home Food Processing Establishment may also sell their foods wholesale to restaurants and grocery stores but face a sales cap of $50,000 in annual gross revenue.
Getting started in Iowa
|Regulatory Burdens||Iowa Cottage Food||Iowa Home Food Processing Establishment|
|Inspections Required Before Starting||No||Yes|
|Are Local Ordinances Preempted or Overridden?||Yes||Yes|
|License, Permit or Registration Required||No||Yes|
|Recipe Approval or Lab Testing Required||No||No|
|Food Handler Training Required||No||No|
Setting up an Iowa Cottage Food business is easy. All anyone needs is a kitchen and entrepreneurial spirit. Iowa does not require a home inspection or any special license, registration or training to get started. Home Food Processing Establishments, on the other hand, must pass an annual home inspection and obtain a license.
Tell your Iowa story
Is the government trying to crack down on your food business?
Do you own a food or drink-related business that is facing problems or is even under threat of shutdown because of burdensome laws and regulations?
Do you face excessive fines from the government if you don’t shut down your business, limit what you sell, or dig up your garden?
We might be able to help.
If you want IJ to review your case, please share your situation through the following form.
Iowa cottage food labels
Iowa cottage food producers who operate a Cottage Food Operation must attach a simple label to each product. Labels must show the business address, business name and product name. People who operate an Iowa Iowa Home Food Processing Establishment must include additional information on their product labels. Besides the business name, business address and product name, they must list the ingredients and net amount of each product.
Iowa cottage food facts
Myths about cottage food abound. Here are the facts:
- Cottage food is safe. Critics who talk about the risk of food-borne illness give hypothetical examples of what could go wrong because real-world cases are rare or nonexistent.
- Cottage food is local. When neighbors trade with neighbors, money stays in the local economy.
- Cottage food is transparent. People who buy from a cottage food producer know what they get. If they have questions about ingredients, sourcing or safety, they can ask.
- Cottage food creates jobs. Many homemade food producers use their income to provide for their families. Others seek a secondary or supplemental income.
- Cottage food empowers women. IJ cottage food research shows that most cottage food producers are women, and many live in rural areas with limited economic opportunity.
- Cottage food expands consumer choice. Some stores simply don’t sell what you want. This is especially true if you have a gluten-free, peanut-free, halal, kosher or vegan diet. Cottage food fills market gaps, giving consumers more options.
Iowa cottage food resources
As part of its Food Freedom Initiative, the Institute for Justice provides a variety of resources for home bakers and other food entrepreneurs. These include:
- Model Food Freedom Act from the Institute for Justice guides activism efforts at state capitols nationwide.
- Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses surveys 775 cottage food producers in 22 states about what their businesses mean to them.
- Ready to Roll highlights nine lessons from the Institute for Justice’s cottage food victory in Wisconsin.
- The Attack on Food Freedom examines the impact of regulations on farmers, chefs, artisans, restaurateurs, food truck operators and others.
Support Iowa legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Iowa by teaming with the Institute for Justice. Send an email with your name, background information and availability to get started…
Defending homemade food freedom nationwide
People have a right to earn an honest living without arbitrary and excessive government interference. Since 2013, the Institute for Justice has defended home bakers and chefs as part of its Food Freedom Initiative. Read about IJ’s nationwide food freedom advocacy…
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All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Statutes, regulations, and processes are subject to change at any time, and specific facts and circumstances could alter how they are applied. If you have questions about the regulation of cottage foods in your jurisdiction, we recommend consulting a lawyer who can help you navigate the process.