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. Nebraska expanded opportunities for cottage food producers in 2019, when state lawmakers amended the Nebraska Pure Food Act.
|Grades For Homemade Food Laws||Nebraska|
|Food Varieties Grade||D|
|Sales and Venue Restrictions Grade||A-|
|Regulatory Burdens Grade||C-|
Nebraska cottage food types
|What Shelf-Stable Foods Can I Sell in Nebraska?||No restrictions|
|Can I Sell Refrigerated Baked Goods in Nebraska?||No|
|Can I Sell Meat in Nebraska?||No|
|Can I Sell Acidified or Pickled Foods in Nebraska?||No|
|Can I Sell Low-Acid Canned Goods in Nebraska?||No|
|Can I Sell Fermented Foods in Nebraska?||No|
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Nebraska cottage food producers may sell goods that do not require time or temperature control for safety. Generally this refers to shelf-stable foods that do not require refrigeration. Examples include baked goods like breads and cookies, along with candy, honey, syrup, dried fruit, jams, jellies and snacks.
Nebraska cottage food venues
|Sales and Venue Restrictions||Nebraska|
|Annual Sales Cap||None|
|Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Direct to Consumers in Nebraska?||No restrictions|
|Can I Sell Homemade Food to Retail Outlets Like Restaurants and Grocery Stores?||No|
Nebraska cottage food producers must sell their goods directly to the end consumer online or in person. Permissible venues include farmers’ markets, fairs, festivals, craft shows and other public events. Nebraska also allows home pickup and delivery, and mail-order delivery of cottage food. Nebraska cottage food producers may not sell their goods at retail outlets like grocery stores. Once sales begin, Nebraska imposes no revenue cap.
Getting started in Nebraska
|Inspections Required Before Starting||No|
|Are Local Ordinances Preempted or Overridden?||No|
|License, Permit or Registration Required||Yes|
|Recipe Approval or Lab Testing Required||No|
|Food Handler Training Required||Yes|
Prior to conducting any sales, Nebraska cottage food producers must complete a nationally accredited food safety course and register online with the state. The requirement is waived when selling directly to the consumer at farmers’ markets. If a Nebraska cottage food producer uses private well water, the water must be tested for contamination.
Nebraska cottage food labels
Nebraska cottage food producers must include their name and address on each package or container of food. They also must inform the consumer by a “clearly visible notification” that the food was prepared in a kitchen that is not subject to regulation and inspection by the regulatory authority and may contain allergens. The disclaimer must appear in any print, radio, television or Internet advertising.
Lincoln cottage food restrictions
Not everyone celebrated the passage of the Nebraska Pure Food Act. Regulators in Lincoln took steps to undermine the reform almost immediately. Despite warning letters from the Institute for Justice sent to the Lincoln City Council and Health Department in July 2019 and January 2020, the city moved forward with its own burdensome rules in defiance of state law. As promised, the Institute for Justice responded with a lawsuit on behalf of Lincoln cottage food producers on May 19, 2020. The litigation led to an amended ordinance, which took effect in 2021. Now, cottage food producers who live in Lincoln simply must register with the city. Inspections may occur, but only under narrow circumstances. Read about the Lincoln cottage food victory…
Nebraska 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.
Nebraska 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 Nebraska
- Nebraska Cottage Food Bill: Like this Facebook page to learn more about the Nebraska cottage food law, how you can get involved, and learn tips of the trade from fellow cottage food producers.
Tell your Nebraska story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Nebraska? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Nebraska legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Nebraska 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.