University of Maryland Extension

Meat Birds- Rules and Regulations

Processing and Selling Poultry Meatcleaned chicken

(Meat requirements provided are for less than 20,000 birds.)                               

State or federal inspection is not required if you are producing and processing less than 20,000 birds for meat annually and do not sell other than directly from the farm. You must register any poultry premises with the Maryland Department of Agriculture as part of their avian influenza control efforts. There are no fees for registering your premises unless you have laying hens in excess of 3,000 birds.

You will need to process the birds in a clean environment and in a clean manner so that no feces or contaminants are visible on the final product. The presence of feces or other contaminants would constitute an adulterant and would, therefore, subject your farm to scrutiny by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety Inspection Service, or the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). Packaging can be as simple as a clear Ziploc bag. If you process less than 1,000 birds annually, the packaging must contain a label with the name and address of the seller, contents, and net weight. If you processthermometer more than 1,000 but less than 20,000 annually, you must also put the statement "Exempt-P.L.-492".  Once processed, the carcasses must be held at a temperature of less than 40oF until sold. 

In Maryland, you may sell your products from your property, but you may not sell at a farmer's market location or any other location off the farm without certification from Maryland's Food Quality Assurance program.  Farmer's Markets are considered retail locations and birds that are uninspected may not be sold at retail locations. Be aware that carcasses must be kept at or below 40oF until purchased by the consumer.  Alternatively, be sure you have your clientele already committed to purchasing your poultry before beginning to raise birds (this is where a down payment and contract comes in handy). Since you will be raising, slaughtering, and processing less than 20,000 birds, you will be unable to sell to restaurants, retail locations, and industrial food service institutions due to the lack of inspection during slaughter and processing. If you want to be able to sell in these locations, consider taking the certification course with the MDA to allow for Poultry processing. 

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