All across the United States, Americans 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.
Prior to 2017, Wisconsin cottage food producers could sell homemade canned goods but not home-baked goods. But thanks to a successful lawsuit in 2017 from the Institute for Justice on behalf of three farmers, cottage food producers may sell home-baked goods throughout Wisconsin. Read more about the Wisconsin cottage food victory…
Unfortunately, Wisconsin still bans the sale of many shelf-stable foods that aren’t baked or canned, like candy and chocolate. So in 2021, the Institute for Justice filed a second lawsuit challenging the state’s arbitrary ban.
|Grades For Homemade Food Laws||Wisconsin Home Baking||Wisconsin Home Canning|
|Food Varieties Grade||F||D+|
|Sales and Venue Restrictions Grade||A-||F|
|Regulatory Burdens Grade||B+||B+|
Wisconsin Homemade food types
|Food Varieties||Wisconsin Home Baking||Wisconsin Home Canning|
|What Shelf-Stable Foods Can I Sell in Wisconsin?||Only baked goods, other pantry goods are banned.||Only applies to acidified, fermented, and pickled foods. Includes applesauce, chutney, jams, jellies.|
|Can I Sell Refrigerated Baked Goods in Wisconsin?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Meat in Wisconsin?||Yes, under 1,000 personally-raised poultry and under 3,000 rabbits.||Yes, under 1,000 personally-raised poultry and under 3,000 rabbits.|
|Can I Sell Acidified or Pickled Foods in Wisconsin?||No||Yes|
|Can I Sell Low-Acid Canned Goods in Wisconsin?||No||Yes|
|Can I Sell Fermented Foods in Wisconsin?||No||Yes|
Despite now having two programs allowing the sale of homemade food, Wisconsin still has rather strict limits of the varieties of food that can be sold. Thanks to a 2017, court victory, home bakers are free to sell baked goods that do not require refrigeration.
Wisconsin also exempts the sale of honey, eggs, fresh-squeezed apple cider, and personally-rabbit and poultry. The state’s Home Canning law further allows acidified, fermented, and pickled foods, including salsa, sauerkraut, and kimchi, as well as applesauce, chutney, jams, jellies, and maple syrup.
Wisconsin, however, bans the sale of other types of shelf-stable foods that are not baked or canned. Prohibited items include chocolates, candies, dried goods, fudge and roasted coffee beans. In other words, chocolate chip cookies are allowed, but not a piece of chocolate. If a home baker wants to sell a single piece of candy, they need to obtain a commercial license and spend tens of thousands of dollars to rent or build a commercial-grade kitchen, which must be in a separate room or building from the home kitchen. Violating the law risks fines of up to $1,000 or six months in jail. A 2021 lawsuit from the Institute for Justice seeks to expand the list of legal cottage foods in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Homemade food venues
|Sales and Venue Restrictions||Wisconsin Home Baking||Wisconsin Home Canning|
|Annual Sales Cap||No limit||$5,000|
|Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Direct to Consumers in Wisconsin?||No restrictions||Only at farmers’ markets and events, selling from home is not allowed.|
|Can I Sell Homemade Food to Retail Outlets Like Restaurants and Grocery Stores?||No||No|
Home bakers can sell directly to consumers at a wide variety of venues, including farmers’ markets, roadside stands, events, and from home. Wisconsin also allows online sales with mail-order or in-person delivery. Once they get started, Wisconsin home bakers may generate as much revenue as they want. They state imposes no sales cap.
The Wisconsin Pickle Bill, on the other hand, is much stricter. Home canners can only sell at farmers’ markets and events, with gross annual sales capped at $5,000. Neither home bakers nor home canners may sell any products at retail outlets like grocery stores, coffee shops and restaurants.
Getting started in Wisconsin
|Regulatory Burdens||Wisconsin Home Baking||Wisconsin Home Canning|
|Inspections Required Before Starting||No||No|
|Are Local Ordinances Preempted or Overridden?||No||No|
|License, Permit or Registration Required||No||No|
|Recipe Approval or Lab Testing Required||No||No|
|Food Handler Training Required||No||No|
Both home bakers and home canners do not need a home inspection, training or licensing from the state before they can start selling. Local regulations may apply however.
Wisconsin cottage food labels
Wisconsin cottage food producers should attach labels on their products with the following information: Business name and address, product name, production date, allergen information, and ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight. Each label also should include the following statement: “This product was made in a private home not subject to state licensing or inspection.”
Wisconsin 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. As the trial court found, Wisconsin’s home-baked food ban had nothing to do with safety. The uncontested evidence showed there was no health risk from improperly baked goods.
- 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.
Wisconsin cottage food resources
- Ready to Roll highlights nine lessons from the Institute for Justice’s home baking victory in Wisconsin.
Tell your Wisconsin story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Wisconsin? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Wisconsin legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Wisconsin 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.