People love fresh-baked cookies and cakes right out of the oven, but selling homemade food in was illegal in Kentucky for anyone who did not own a farm. That changed in 2018 with the passage of Kentucky House Bill 263, supported by the Institute for Justice. The law allowed Kentucky residents to produce and sell many types of homemade foods without paying registration fees or worrying about sales limits. Kentucky House Bill 468, adopted in 2019, reversed some of the gains. The Family & Consumer Sciences Extension at the University of Kentucky’s School of Human Environmental Sciences provides details on the new restrictions…
Kentucky cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Kentucky distinguishes between two types of cottage food producers. “Homebased processors” do not have to grow anything in the products they make. They may sell non-potentially hazardous foods that do not require refrigeration. The list includes dried fruits and vegetables, mixed greens, fruit jams, jellies, fruit butters, syrups, candies, fruit and pecan pies, dried herbs and spices, dried grains, nuts, granola, trail or snack mixes, popcorn with or without added seasonings, and baked goods like breads, cookies and cakes. “Homebased microprocessors” are typically farmers or gardeners. They must grow a predominant ingredient in the products they make, and may sell higher-risk products. The list includes canned tomatoes, pickled fruits and vegetables, salsa, barbecue sauce, pepper or herb jellies, vinegars, low or no sugar jams and jellies, and pressure-canned vegetables.
Kentucky cottage food venues
Kentucky homebased processors must sell their goods directly to consumers within the state. Authorized venues include farmers’ markets, roadside stands, fairs, festivals, community events and online. Kentucky homebased processors also may sell directly from their kitchens with home pickup and delivery. They may not sell their goods at retail outlets like grocery stores and restaurants. Kentucky microprocessors face additional restrictions. They only may sell their goods at three types of venues: their own farms, registered farmers’ markets and certified roadside stands.
Getting started in Kentucky
Kentucky homebased processors must register with the Food Safety Branch of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The state charges a $50 registration fee each year and imposes a $60,000 cap on gross annual sales. No training, workshops or inspections are required, but local health officials may choose to conduct annual kitchen inspections. Kentucky microprocessors face additional government hurdles and restrictions. They must pay $50 to attend a microprocessor workshop at the University of Kentucky. Then they must submit all their recipes to the University of Kentucky for approval at a fee of $5 per recipe. Then they must submit proof of workshop completion, approved recipes, draft labels for all products, and verification of an approved water source to the Food Safety Branch of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The state charges a $50 registration fee each year and imposes a $60,000 cap on gross annual sales.
Kentucky cottage food labeling
Kentucky cottage food producers must package their goods with labels displaying the product name, the name and address of the homebased processing operation, the ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight, the net weight or volume of the product, the production date, and an allergen warning for products containing milk, eggs, wheat, soybean, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Labels also must include the following statement in 10-point type: “This product is home-produced and processed.”
Kentucky 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.
Kentucky 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.
Selling Homemade Food in Kentucky
Kentucky cottage food resources:
- Kentucky Home Bakers: Check out the Kentucky Home Bakers website to learn more about the Kentucky cottage food law, how you can get involved, and learn tips of the trade from fellow cottage food producers.
Tell your Kentucky story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Kentucky? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Kentucky legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Kentucky 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.