Everything This Farmer Wants To Do Is Illegal

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia attained a certain moderate level of fame when his operation was featured in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Now he’s got a book of his own called Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.

Reason asked him to name some of these illegal things he wishes to do. Here’s one of them:

Sell custom-slaughtered meat by the piece: “My position is that if meat [slaughtered outside the normal factory processes] is OK for people to eat, give away, or feed their children—which indicates that it is not an inherently hazardous product—we should have freedom to also sell it. The restrictions are on the commerce of it. The attitude is: The only thing that is safe to eat is something with a government stamp on it, unless you get it free. Exchange money, and it’s somehow not safe.”

What do you think of this?

List: Fresh From the Farm [Reason via Fark]


Edit Your Comment

  1. azntg says:

    Um yeah… some people like their oligopoly to be maintained. So back off!

  2. If he gets inspected and declared clean, then cool by me. Even better if I can watch him cut the meat. Butchering is an amazing art.

  3. How are consumers equipped to determine the safety of meat?

    I’m pretty anti-bureaucracy, but I’m pretty for a food safety agency.

  4. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    I think the consumer should decide if they want to drink raw milk, for example. This country bans some of the world’s best foods such as jamon iberico from Spain.

  5. FilthyHarry says:

    On the surface this looks like a question of safety but the larger issue is one of the gov’t using regulations to PROTECT big business. So not sure how I feel. Don’t want dirty meat, don’t want tax dollars spent on protecting established big business from the little guy.


  6. Lucky225 says:

    Amen, people think the government needs to babysit over everything that happens in this country. While I wouldn’t particularly buy meat without some kind of inspection, I think it should still be the consumer’s choice and not a government regulated mandate.

  7. loueloui says:

    People like this I really don’t have a problem with. Anyone who is open and honest about their intentions, save for possible incompetence or stunning naivete, is probably scrupulous enough to run a clean outift.

    Unfortunately, these laws are only useful against the people who are not so forthcoming, and try to sell their product out he back door, ala Upton Sinclair. Or maybe this guy. [www.healthinspections.com]

  8. B says:

    I’m not okay with unpasteurized milk or uninspected beef, but selling jam or pies seems fine with me.

  9. @ADismalScience: That’s not so much the issue; the issue is that the rules to run a butchery are so onerous that it pushes all but the biggest players out of business. There’s no reason small or individual butcheries COULDN’T be inspected regularly, except that the government puts rules in place that only the very largest companies can afford.

    I read his article by the same title ages ago … loved it!

  10. MelL says:

    @ADismalScience: Judging from recent history, it looks like consumers would do no worse than the officials who are supposed to be overseeing the process, whether government or corporate.

  11. no.no.notorious says:

    “The attitude is: The only thing that is safe to eat is something with a government stamp on it, unless you get it free. Exchange money, and it’s somehow not safe.”

    oh how poetic. a real free thinker we’ve got here.

  12. pigeonpenelope says:

    i believe that if you request at certain thing, like raw milk, you should get it at your own risk. if that butcher has customers who want things done in a particular way, then he should be allowed to sell it that way at the customer’s own risk.

    for mass production or for the main market, things should be done by law.

  13. duonexus says:

    Safety of meat — I don’t live in California, but I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard about Jack in the Box serving tainted burgers. What about that big meat recall that resulted in a national company going bankrupt? I think that when we lost our local butcher, we lost true accountability.

  14. seanblood says:

    erm WHAT. i had no idea that was a law. I understand that their is a need to make sure we are safe (ahhh mad cow oh noooo) and all, but have we all seriously gone this far with the government? i find this ludicrous. soon we will have laws that effectively eliminate any small business, or make them subject to immediate absorption by larger business. “OH you are selling your own furniture? lovingly crafted by someone who took a lifetime to learn his craft? MIGHT HAVE SPLINTERS!! we must protect America’s bottoms.”

    its small things like this that make me want to get out of this country while the government still ‘allows’ us (“too much terrorism in other countries! not safe for pwecious!)

  15. WayneK2 says:

    “Exchange money, and it’s somehow not safe.”

    Okay, the farmer is almost certainly one of the good guys. But there are SO MANY bad guys out there, and they come out of the woodwork the instant money is involved.

    I’d bet that the same month this farmer is legally allowed to start selling exquisite (and perfectly safe) meat, several similar operations will open up selling very questionable meat (and operate under the same guise).

  16. rlee says:

    Is the government arguing that safety is in fact the issue? I mean, you see the same seemingly bizarre logic when it comes to prostitution: the act itself is ok as long as there’s no money exchanged.

  17. kallawm says:

    If you let just anybody start selling pieces of meat, it would cause all sorts of problems. People who don’t know what they’re doing will suddenly start selling meat. You can make people very very sick if you don’t slaughter animals properly.

    I’m from the Charlottesville are. There are many “transplants” to the area who would fancy themselves farmers and make a HUGE mess. Harder to do damage trying to grow veggies. :)

  18. NYGal81 says:


    So don’t buy raw milk or un-inspected meat, simple as that. Nobody is suggesting that the entire market of dairy and meats go unregulated, but it’s a little ridiculous to say that a sensible person, aware of the potential risks, should be denied the ability to purchase those products.

    One of the largest responsibilities in the recent push for local, homegrown, sustainable, small farm, etc. etc. is to make yourself informed about your sources. It is, inherently, a “buyer beware” scenario because Big Brother isn’t there to “be informed” for you. Although I would seriously question how well-protected we really are.

    BTW…jams and jellies, prepared in an unsanitary manner, can be pretty bad for you too!

  19. mikelotus says:

    Since he is selling his food, and I can tell you what he sells is legit and of high quality, as organic, all natural food, then perhaps its time for the organizations that promote this type of food to step up with their seal of approval on anyone that can meet their requirements. What is interesting is farm raised seafood is not under these type of Federal restrictions so stores such as Whole Food are part of an association that inspects and monitors their suppliers. Seems like this could be the solution in this case also. The big guys will fight it, but given we have Democrats in Congress and soon to have Obama as President, coupled with the meat industry sucking, this might just be politically viable.

  20. IrisMR says:

    It’s all about quality control I guess. Not that I trust the gov to have good standards, but it’s better than nothing.

    But I guess we can run random inspections too.

  21. If I remember correctly the government can’t inspect local slaughter houses do to lack of funds and such. So let the guy sell. It’s probably safer than what the food corporations sell

  22. balthisar says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: But that’s not because it’s bad for you, but rather because it has the potential to spread bad stuff about the USA.

  23. sketchy says:

    Do what civilized people do and give up meat altogether.

  24. jimconsumer says:

    @B: I’m not okay with unpasteurized milk or uninspected beef

    Then don’t buy it. That’s the beauty of a free country, you don’t have to buy it. I don’t know why you people feel the need to deny ME the right to buy it, though. Honestly, what the hell do you care?

    Here’s an idea: If a guy is selling bad meat, he’s going to make his customers sick. Ergo, they’re going to quit buying from him and he won’t be able to make money. So he has a vested interest in making sure his products are safe, don’t you think? Enough of an interest to take proactive steps to sell safe food. Especially considering he’s almost certainly feeding his food to his own family.

    Fact is, more people get sick eating food from the big, inspected, so called “safe” conglomerates than they do eating from local family farms. More people get sick from fast food restaurants than the fly by night taco truck vendor guys.

    I say, leave the American people alone. Let the customer decide what he wants to buy and let the producer sell whatever he likes. But that will never happen, unfortunately, because we’re not really a free country. Not even close.

  25. jimconsumer says:

    @sketchy: Go away, stupid vegan. If you were truly civilized, you wouldn’t harass others about personal choices that don’t affect you.

  26. Jacquilynne says:

    I think the big problem with removing inspection requirements is that it would be very difficult to create legislation that would allow small producers to sell their uninspected product, while not allowing Safeway to sell uninspected product, which would come from someone a whole lot less loving and caring. A nice small scale producer might never cut corners that would make their meat dangerous, but big conglomerates do it now, even with inspections. If they could legally sell meat without inspection (and people would buy it if it were a few cents a pound cheaper), things would undoubtedly be even worse than they are now.

    One possible compromise might be to allow direct sale of uninspected meat — the farming family can sell it, via personal delivery or from a farm shop, directly to customers, but no middlemen allowed.

  27. deserthiker says:

    Personally, I prefer my E. Coli to be fresh from the farm.

    The idea that we forgo government inspections on beef and other farm products for the family farmer is ludicrous. If someone wants to GIVE away their meat, whatever, but it is the government duty to regulate commerce and when you start selling products it is a government’s duty to insure their safety. The potential for disease and death if every local farmer started his own meat factory is far too high.

    If you want your own non-factory farm meat, buy a steer and have someone slaughter it.

    And I thought from the title this was going to be about a farmer wanting to grow something that would benefit society, like hemp and marijuana.

  28. robyns says:

    @duonexus: Exactly! And for everyone who places their faith in the government’s support of factory farmed, big business meat-related items, please refer to the article on how nobody seems to know anything about Taco Bell’s mystery meat. I would much rather be able to know where my food came from.

  29. D-Bo says:

    @pigeonpenelope: I agree.

  30. MaliBoo Radley says:

    My mom and her husband buy meat exclusively from Polyface. It’s so funny to see them mentioned here. Their beef is fabulous!!

  31. AlexDitto says:

    Issues like this boil down to a simple question: do you think people are stupid, and should be mollycoddled, or do you think people can be educated to make their own decisions?

    I’d say, let people do as they like, within reason. If people are educated, the market will keep things straight. People won’t buy meat from sources that aren’t verified as safe, and problem is solved. Buyer beware, and all that good stuff.

    I think the government has been taking responsibility for a lot of things that it shouldn’t, and has been lacking in a lot of things that it should.

  32. LibidinousSlut says:

    @deserthiker: The variant of e-coli that makes us crazy sick didn’t exist before the 1980’s; it’s a byproduct of government regulation. Cows fed grass (as opposed to grains) don’t get that form of e-coli. But because our farm policy favors large, factory farm operations, farms like Polyface have a hard go.

    @AlexDitto: the problem is, if you look at the history of the dairy industry, for example, the market didn’t keep things straight. A lot of people got sick and died because people were less than scrupulous; and because so many people were unscrupulous people’s choices were either starve or take a chance. They had to take a chance. We need smarter regulation (like Connecticut has with raw milk) that favors smaller (environmentally and people friendlier) farms and move away from the ginormous agrobusiness that has become the norm. Also. When meat is recalled (always voluntary) that tainted meat can be cooked and put into canned meat products; so that ground beef that people can’t eat might just make its wait into your chef boyardee. yum.

  33. FilthyHarry says:

    @AlexDitto: Ya I feel the same way except… You need to remember its not a level playing field. On one hand you have ‘average person’ on the other hand you global conglomerate behemoths that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on psychologically backed advertising as well as hundreds of millions more in lobbying the govt to have the laws made to suit their needs. And remember if you believe in a free market, as you seem to do, they are not spending all that money to lose money. So that being said, though my natural instinct is to want the govt out of my buisness, frankly they’re the only chance we have to keep from just being outright killed by these companies.

  34. catskyfire says:

    What comes to mind is that people need to remember WHY some of the laws were passed in the first place. Then, if they feel the reasons no longer apply, work to change them.

    And however much people may like to believe that govt will always protect ‘big business’, it usually comes down to this: Every law had a purpose.

    Bakers would add sawdust and ash and other…things…to bread to bulk it up. Not every baker, of course, but enough to where laws were passed.

    Butchers would put sawdust and …miscellaneous parts… into sausage. Not every butcher, but enough that laws were passed.

    Is the system perfect? Of course not. Society has grown and changed in the time. In which case, work to improve the system, or find out what no longer applies. Are there still people who would cheat … of course. We know that.

  35. paco says:

    Read Pollan’s book. He has a very clear explanation of the issue here. Briefly what it comes down to is that the agribusiness lobbies in Virginia control much of the legislative power, and they are very protective of their markets. The method they use here is to force Polyface and any similar farms to use a very specific abbatoir to butcher the meat. Salatin gets around the laws with his chicken by selling them whole, immediately after processing. These, the customer can cook or butcher at home. Cattle and hogs are not as simple a proposition.

    Anyway, read Pollan’s book.

  36. MercuryPDX says:

    What do you think of this?

    I’d eat “unregulated beef” the same day I drink that “raw” (un-homogenized) milk… never. There’s a reason why people have a longer life expectancy today than they did 100 years ago. Call it “better living through chemistry/’preservatives” or higher standards and regulations to keep potentially disease contaminated food out of your mouth.

  37. redkamel says:

    its because if someone is selling it to you their interest is profit, not quality, whereas if they give it to you they dont really have in interest in anything, except possibly your wellbeing (a friend), or killing you (crazy person).

    it seems pretty simple to me why you cant sell unregulated meat.

  38. jimconsumer says:

    @MercuryPDX: How silly. For years we’ve bought all our beef by the cow. We have a local farmer who raises a cow for us and when it’s nice and fat, he chops it up and sells it to us. The meat is delicious. I’ve never had anything quite so good. Never been sick, either.

    We live longer today because of advances in technology, not because of government regulation.

  39. jimconsumer says:

    @redkamel: its because if someone is selling it to you their interest is profit, not quality – I’ll ask again, do you think food producers would stay in business if they made their customers sick? No, they wouldn’t. Therefore they have a vested interest in producing safe meat regardless of laws and regulations. Not everyone trying to sell you something has some ulterior, scheming motive… most people really do want to sell the best quality they know how to produce. That’s how they win, and keep, customers.

  40. P_Smith says:

    If I saw someone put his ax head into a fire and then lop off the head of a chicken without it touching anything else, and then put that chicken immediately into a cooler of ice, I would be willing to eat that chicken.

    Of course, could I stomach eating it after having seen it killed in that way…?

    Without wanting to sound like a conspiracy theory nut, I think this is one of the reasons the “avian flu epidemic” was so overhyped. Maybe the meat industry wanted to make people fearful of buying from anywhere except stores, and try to stop the selling of live animals be they fish or birds.

    Buying a live animal and killing it yourself is probably one of the best ways to ensure it’s not tainted by processing.

  41. P_Smith says:

    @jimconsumer: I refer to vegans and vegetarians like sketchy as PETAphiles.

    I’m willing not to eat meat around vegetarians just as long as they don’t criticize me for eating it elsewhere. Mutual respect is a wonderful thing.

  42. ludwigk says:

    Sell the whole cow, then slaughter it for the customer after they own it. Done, and done. Can’t find a buyer for a whole cow? Organize a group buy first.

  43. ghettoimp says:

    Pollan’s book is really excellent, and this Polyface farm was one of the most interesting parts of the whole thing. It produces food with integrity and puts industrial meat producers to shame.

  44. wfpearson says:

    @kallawm: In regards to your comment: “If you let just anybody start selling pieces of meat, it would cause all sorts of problems. People who don’t know what they’re doing will suddenly start selling meat.”

    –I can’t believe you think that renegade butchers would be roaming the countryside. Your premise is absolutely absurd. Why would anyone who doesn’t know a t-bone from a cow’s ass invest money in a butcher shop? Wouldn’t a customer be able to spot a shady meat dealer like this?

    As for certifying beef, you don’t have to do it with tax dollars. If meat sellers used independent companies, like the organics do now, then you could trust their products.

  45. donkeyjote says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: After just one month of jamon iberico, 3 years ago, I am still sick of it.

  46. donkeyjote says:

    And after seeing someone shot a pig at point blank, his family then shaving, cutting it up, and throwing it on a bbq, it made me, a veracious meat eater sick. I still ate it, but I felt bad. *Animal Lover*

    And I bet not even a third of factory meat is government inspected…

  47. Alex Chasick says:

    @sketchy: Big ups, although the Polyface operation made me reconsider vegetarianism a little bit.

  48. drjayphd says:

    @sketchy: You know how long I’ve been waiting to do this?

  49. forgottenpassword says:

    i agree with him. There’s too much regulation, too many laws. You cant do anything anymore without a permit, license or a fee.

    My parents used to buy or beef from a neighboring farm where the guy raised his own cattle, slaughtered them himself & sold the meat privately.

    IMO there are too many laws/regulations period. Beauracracy run amuck!

    ANd for those saying if there wasnt regulation… every tom, dick & harry would start selling meat….. its up to the customer to know who they are buying from. I wouldnt buy from someone if I didnt know how they ran their business if a health risk is a concern.

  50. forgottenpassword says:

    I never heard of jamon iberico before & looked it up.

    It said: “The first jamóns ibéricos were released for sale in the United States in December, 2007, with the bellota hams due to follow in July 2008. These are the priciest hams in the world: The basic jamón ibérico is priced upwards of $52 a pound, and the bellota is priced upwards of $96 a pound. As of April, 2008 the only approved exporter of jamóns ibéricos is Embutidos y Jamones Fermin S.L. with the only importer being Fermin USA, which is a partnership between Rogers International, Chef Jose Andres, and Embutidos y Jamones Fermin S.L. Fermin USA distributes to numerous sources, including Dean and Deluca, HotPaella, La Tienda, La Espanola Meats, and others.”

    So… it looks like you CAN get it in the US & it isnt illegal anymore. But only a few are allowed to make it & export it to the US ….and its expensive.

    Reading up on it made me hungry. lol! I’d love to try it even though I never liked ham all that much, but I DO like other pork products!

  51. geoffhazel says:

    I don’t have a problem of him selling his meat locally to people who can meet him face to face, but once he puts it in a package and sells it in a store or somewhere he ISN’T then it needs to be inspected like any other meat.

    Sell at the bazzar, or the farmer’s market, fine. Safeway 100 miles away, no thank you.

  52. jwilliamf says:

    Similar to the many anti-vaxers who forget the history of vaccines and the HIV/AIDS denialists who forget the history of the AIDS, I think many people are forgetting the history of food and drug regulation.

    Anti-vaxers say vaccines aren’t needed. They harm more people than they help. Of course, they are wrong. Before measles vaccination for example, “approximately 3 to 4 million persons had measles annually in the United States” compared to this year which was about 70 cases with most probably unvaccinated.

    HIV/AIDS denialists claim HIV doesn’t cause AIDS and that antiretroviral drugs aren’t useful and might even be the cause of AIDS. Like the anti-vaxers, they are completely wrong. They are ignoring the increased life spans of those who take the antiretroviral drugs.

    Now in this thread, we have people claiming meat inspection isn’t needed and that regulation is more harmful than useful. Haven’t you read any of the history of food and drug regulation?

    It’s not perfect but overall the regulations are there for a reason. Here’s a balanced article about the history from an economic perspective:

    “do you think food producers would stay in business if they made their customers sick?”

    Yes, if the customers don’t realize the food is the source of the ‘sickness’ or if the ‘sickness’ is something non-immediate.

    If a beef producer was dying all of their meat red and swearing that the meat was pure (i.e., unadulterated), many would buy it. Years later, after some of their customers were diagnosed with cancer, studies show that the meat was dyed and that the dye was a well-known carcinogen, then they would start losing customers.

    The market cannot fix this problem until a lot of damage is done whereas a good inspection system would catch it much sooner.

    From the article I linked to:
    “for those products where quality is not easily ascertained by consumers even after consuming the product, market mechanisms are unlikely to be adequate since it is impossible for consumers to punish cheaters if they cannot determine whether or not they have in fact been cheated”.

    Of course, our inspection system for meat is not all that good but that’s a call for better regulation not de-regulation.

  53. bones says:

    Read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair to see why the government doesn’t let you sell raw meat, raw milk, etc…

  54. zyodei says:

    The problem with the American food supply is not under-regulation. It is not contamination. It is a fundamental problem: Everything is sprayed, processed, and rendered basically nutritionally void by the time it reaches the consumers mouth.

    While me might have less food borne bacteria than in the days of “The Jungle”, we have far more chronic diseases. Go to a Wal-Mart in middle America and look around. Do you see a bunch of healthy people glowing with life? I’ve been to a lot of Wal-Marts in out of the way places on road trips, and what I saw sure wasn’t pretty.

    I’ve been living in Korea for a few months, and the difference in health between the young people raised on junk food and the older generations is staggering. If you hike the most rigorous trails on the mountains near here, you won’t see hardly anybody less than 40 or 50, up to 70 or 80. Practically all fat people are less than 30.

    This is particularly telling, because Korea has made the switch to western style processed food in a very short period of time.

    If you eat the meat of an animal that was raised in filth and misery and ate nothing but corn it’s whole life, even if it’s “USDA Approved”, it’s nutritionally an entirely different thing from an animal raised in a more humane way.

    The problem with the American food supply is not under-regulation. It is corporate control of the food chain.

    If you skip my whole comment, read only this one sentecnce:


  55. Hambriq says:

    I’ll give you a hint:

    We like to sue. No wait, we LOVE to sue. When little Gladys Green Groceries buys her raw milk, she feels great about herself. And then when she gets salmonella, she sues the farmer, the government for not overseeing the farmer, the farmer’s market for overseeing the farmer, etc. etc. etc. She says she wasn’t made aware of the dangers of the product. Consumer advocates insist that she is fighting the good fight for the little guy, and SOMEONE has to oversee these companies, otherwise no one would!

    Gladys Green Groceries gets a fat check, Farmer Brown goes bankrupt, and we all wonder why we have a nanny state. Folks, it’s of our own making.

  56. landsnark says:

    Since Joel Salatin lives in Charlottesville, I’m not surprised that everything he wants to do is illegal.

    I am from the Charlottesville area too, and the local government there absolutely loves to harass its citizens (although they make a lot of exceptions for fairly big business or a prominent local citizens).

    It is really hard to believe that this is Thomas Jefferson’s old stomping ground – Charlottesville seems to believe that that government is best which bullies most.

  57. mhutt says:

    I have a family member who works for the government as a meat inspector. He would never purchase food which wasn’t inspected, not just for job security, but it is very difficult to meet all the safety standards. Those standards are in place to keep us safe. If people who know they are going to be inspected still have problems keeping everything as clean as required and at the perfect temp. then what makes us think that some guy on his own with no one checking him would always get it right. I like the idea that there is someone checking to be sure my food is safe.

  58. stinerman says:



    The FDA and USDA should be advisory.

  59. stinerman says:


    Yeah, and I wouldn’t buy uninspected meat either, but if someone wants to buy uninspected meat and they know it isn’t inspected and all the risks that come with that, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?

  60. @WayneK2: He’s actually allowed to slaughter chickens for market on his farm due to a loophole in the law, and THAT hasn’t drawn tons of shady competition into the arena.

    I haven’t read the book yet, just his article from several years ago by the same name, but I don’t think he thinks regulation is going away (as much as he might want it to — the man is so flamingly libertarian he comes back around to the liberal side on some issues!); he wants a regulatory scheme that doesn’t punish small (and ethical) players for not being ginormous players with lobbying money.

    For example, one thing I recall he complained about was the requirement that every slaughterhouse have a special bathroom just for government inspectors (who are like never on site); the inspector can’t use the employee or “everybody” bathroom. That requires a slaughterhouse to build a special second bathroom that never gets used. A small detail, but the law is FULL of things like that, and it gets expensive. Salatin’s slaughterhouse, which is sort-of like a covered porch (which is actually good for hygiene; sun gets at everything), doesn’t have ONE bathroom, let alone two; the hired help for the slaughter day (once a week, IIRC, and lasting only a few hours) pees in various farm outbuildings.

    You’re allowed to slaughter chickens on your farm for direct sale; that’s the loophole he’s currently exploiting.

    Many small organic farmers band together and get with a local slaughterhouse to have one day a week that’s “small farm” day at the slaughterhouse. But that requires a critical mass of small local farms raising beef and pork, and it generally requires the farmers to compromise their principles and use slaughterhouse methods they don’t agree with, because they slaughterhouse can’t totally change its system one day a week, particularly not for their least-profitable customers.

    A regime that allowed periodic inspections of farm abbatoirs, governed under separate requirements than the massive slaughterhouses so it could be affordable, would work. A regime that allowed small farm-association slaughterhouses, again under less-onerous NON-FOOD-SAFETY REQUIREMENTS would work.

    Remember, most of what keeps these small slaughterhouses from being able to operate is rules and regulations that have nothing to do with food safety (like special bathrooms for inspectors) and everything to do with making it too costly for small players to compete in the market.

    (And PS — I bet he probably does want to grow hemp. Or at least have the option.)

  61. LUV2CattleCall says:


    God Dammit! I’ve a vegetarian – but people like you give people like me a bad name!

    I don’t want to force anyone to stop eating meat…I just ask that they take steps in the right direction toward more humane choices (free-roaming vs. battery cage hens….those organic pigs that live as a family group in little tents that they showed on Modern Marvels…etc). Your way: Good luck getting 99% of meat-eaters to agree with you My way: If humane products were widely available, I’d bet money that it would be a no-brainier choice for many.

    You make more friends with honey than with….synthetic honey I guess.

  62. LUV2CattleCall says:


    Oh, forgot to add…..I’ve yet to see a Cheetah give the gazelle it’s about to rip apart live some morphine, and last I checked, their teeth aren’t tipped with lidocaine…

  63. teapartys_over says:

    @jwilliamf: But the anti-vaccine people have a chance of infecting the general population. If I want to buy meat from a local farm that is uninspected, the risk is mine alone.

    Personally I buy from a local farmer who is allowed only to sell by the whole animal, not individual cuts. And he does sometimes (illegally) sell me individual cuts. You could very easily prevent distributors from selling uninspected meat, while allowing individuals to buy from individual farms at their own risk. The FDA only inspects a tiny fraction of all meat processing plants out there, so I feel I’m taking a risk buying from some package in the store that could have come from any possible unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

    Having the luxury of living near a farmer, I can walk into his barn, meet the cows I’m going to eat, watch them slaughtered (If I choose) and butchered. I can see all the conditions right in front of me, watch them grazing in the grass or see what the farmer feeds them in winter. I trust my own eyes and judgement of this farmer a hell of a lot more than a government agency whose regulations are continually watered down by factory farm lobbyists and who has time to maybe inspect .5% of all meat in the supermarket.

  64. MeOhMy says:

    Ahh meat inspections. Small farms can’t sell because they can’t afford all the nonsense measures requireed to play. Big ag conglomerates are so big that the meat doesn’t get adequately inspected anyway.

    The key thing with Polyface is that they will let anyone come at anytime and watch the slaughter process. Try that with whatever giant conglomerate provides your suppesedly inspected and safe meat!

    Now that we live in a centralized mass-market society, the troubles that lead to the creation of the FDA and USDA are no longer as critical. Allow those that want to to buy meat from local farmers and those that want so-called safe, inspected meat keep doing what they are doing now.

    You know why this won’t happen? The industry lobbyists. It’s the same reason you’ll never see a good air travel bill of rights or true limits on what credit card providers can do.

  65. MrMold says:

    You folk ought to delve into history. Farmers are the salt of the earth, so salty they kept slavery extant well into the late 1800s…so briny they still use undocumented migrant laborers to prevent living wages and safe working conditions…so saline that they feel you should take on risks rather than have their processes inspected.

    Hey, I’ve just lived near the darlings for more than 30 years and I don’t have those urban ruby-colored glasses when it comes to farmers and farming.

  66. stupidjerk says:

    isn’t “custom slaughtered meat, by the piece” the basic idea behind a butcher shop? when did this become illegal? get certified, get licensed, get approved, do whatever you need to by the book and open a butcher shop…what’s hard about that?

  67. TheBigLewinski says:

    We want to be sure that this guy doesn’t “beat his meat” like that company out in California. I am for the necessary inspections to insure the meat is safe (and his hands are clean.)

  68. BigElectricCat says:

    Perhaps a Consumerist poster who hunts can help explain this.

    I live in Atlanta. Waaaay on the outskirts of the metro area, you can find businesses that dress and freeze deer during hunting season. Basically, you bag a deer and then bring it to one of these places, whereupon they clean and dress it, cut it up, wrap and label it and then pop it in their big-ass freezer. Then they call you, and you come pick it up and pay for the service.

    I’ve inquired at a couple of these places, and they say that if someone doesn’t come pick their venison within two weeks, they’ll sell it to whoever wants it. You can’t buy bits and pieces, though — you have to buy the whole unclaimed deer.

    What of those sorts of places? Are they inspected? If not, then are they breaking any kinds of laws by selling to the public in this manner?

  69. I’ve read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”,and loved it.
    The way the guy operates this farm is amazing, and you can be pretty sure that the meat he produces is way healthier, way more nutritious, and much less likely to cause illness than your factory farm, corn fed, anti-biotic pumped, living on a dirt plot in its own feces, saturated fat clogged sick beef.

  70. Saboth says:

    I think it should be a consumer’s right to buy things like this…milk, meat, home made products. However, they should be qualified to judge the product for safety.

    Also…anyone kept up with the news lately? The FDA can’t even do it’s job properly…understaffed, undertrained…you are basically buying uninspected meat and produce already, the only difference is Big Business has a monopoly on it.

  71. Elcheecho says:

    @rlee: that’s a horrible comparison! It is the exchange of cash that makes it illegal. Otherwise it’s just sex. Also, C-ville cops suck. Not all of them. But enough that there should be laws against them.

  72. @sketchy: Why not do what Hitler didn’t … eat meat.

  73. Antediluvian says:

    Wow. I didn’t realize Salatin was in Pollan’s book (which is on my short list to read, along w/ some of his others).

    Salatin is a very smart man — do not underestimate him.

    I saw Salatin speak at the NOFA summer conference (Northeast Organic Farming Association) a few years back. I have a farming book or two of his, too. I agree with his farming outlook, and hope others do too.

    However, he lost me as a person when he told the NOFA crowd he will not hire women as farming interns — because they should not and cannot do the work that men do. He also said his intern housing is only suitable for men, and he won’t change it. He’s also very anti-gay. These attitudes stem from the particular flavor of his fundamentalist religion*, which also influences his farming outlook — they’re linked.

    It’s a shame because his farming philosophy is very forward thinking and should be celebrated and shared, but his views on equality are very backwards.

    *Nothing against fundamentalists / evangelicals (Christian or otherwise) per se but when they want to destroy my family under the cloak of “religious freedom,” the gloves come off.

  74. @P_Smith: You go so much farther than I would be willing to go. I am a vegetarian and feel incredibly uncomfortable if my friends will not enjoy their meat dinners in front of me. My lifestyle choices should have almost nothing to do with their meals, unless it counts that we try to select restaurants with a broad variety of entrees that will likely include something I can eat.

  75. BStu says:

    Laws don’t exist to protect us from good people. The exist to protect us from bad ones. That the good ones need to follow the law too is a very reasonable exception to make to force the bad ones to do so as well.

  76. savvy9999 says:

    I have read (and loved) Pollan’s work, and am very familiar with Polyface’s dilemma.

    I buy nearly all my beef, pork, and lamb from a local farmer, by the piece, with cash, tax free, out of the back of his pickup truck. Best damn stuff in the county.

    Salatin’s problem is that he wants to be ‘under-the-radar’, but that’s a wee bit hard when you publish books about your entire operation.

    psst, here’s a secret– it’s hard to be a libertarian in the USA in 2008 if you have a big mouth.

  77. MelL says:

    @Elcheecho: You just repeated what he said, that it is the money changing hands for whatever, be it sex or meat, that is making it illegal.

  78. henrygates says:

    I have no problem with him selling unregulated meat. This isn’t a matter of him selling large amounts of meat in a grocery store where customers have no idea where the meat came from. So far as I can tell, here you are buying it direct from the butcher. You know the butcher, can see his facility, you can choose for yourself if you want to eat his meat.

    His meat, while not approved by the government, is probably healthier for you anyway! Is this any different than buying vegetables direct from the farmer?

  79. He could always give the meat away, but charge a lot more for the packaging that it’s in…

  80. chrisjames says:

    @savvy9999: It’s an outcry over the fact that he has to do it under the radar. He’s probably martyred himself or his business, but it’s better to get the word out in the open than to stay silent when you feel oppressed. Think spousal abuse: calling the cops is just gonna anger the abuser, but is never risking that worth it?

  81. neilb says:

    Amen. If you know them well enough to trust their meat then you know them well enough to do an under-the-table transaction. That is the way things are and it really isn’t too bad of a system as long we do NOT have over-zealous law enforcement.

  82. chrisjames says:

    @MelL: And you’ve said it a third time. :)

    What it is it about the exchange of money that makes it illegal? Because the government is supposed to be able to monitor transactions, but they can’t these? Because fighting it as a black market opens it up to regulation–keeps it from being unregulated? Is it just because it’s tax-free and the government, which may or may not know or care if there is nothing wrong with the goods or the transaction, deserves a cut? Money exchanges hands, but what would be the reason(s) to use that as an excuse for interference?

  83. Gokuhouse says:

    I’m a firm believer that the government is supposed to be small and only exists to help defend us from harm like outside armies attacking….Not from food we buy. If I want to buy my steaks from the local farmer who just may be my neighbor, let me. I don’t trust the big chain stores to sell quality meat either….What’s all this I keep hearing about millions of pounds of meat recalled??? That shows me what the government sanctions as safe is not always so and in fact may be less safe because so many different meats can be combined together to form that 1 pound of hamburger….

  84. rmz says:


    Everything is sprayed, processed, and rendered basically nutritionally void by the time it reaches the consumers mouth.

    You must have a different definition of “basically nutritionally void” than, you know, science.

  85. @seanblood: “soon we will have laws that effectively eliminate any small business, or make them subject to immediate absorption by larger business.”

    Yes, unfortunately I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there.

    If the main effect (not intention, EFFECT) of a law is to protect or support big business, then it’s a bad law. They can *say* it’s about safety all they want, but the effect of many of these laws seems to be no improvement in safety, but a big boost to locked-in corporate profits.

  86. MrEvil says:

    Sorry I haven’t read all the comments, but this guy CAN have a USDA inspector sign off on his meat. He just doesn’t want to do it. There are custom meat cutters with a packing house in a trailer. A USDA inspector will drive out to whatever location he’s at to inspect his mobile facility.

    This guy is some liberal hippie anti government nutjob. If he has a proper meat processing facility and he wants to sell cut meat, he can get a USDA inspector. He just doesn’t want one because he’s a member of the tinfoil hat brigade. Amarillo Texas being in the middle of beef country has tons of small custom slaughter operations and each one of them has no problem selling their meat and they each have the stamp of approval from the USDA.

    Ironically though, I bet this asshole goes to the Farm Service Agency every year to sign up for his check.

  87. Mr. Gunn says:

    Clearly it’s in the public’s interest to have more competition, but how could you enforce a set of regulations for big guys and one for small farms. How do you deal with borderline cases?

  88. CaptainRoin says:

    Can’t he just sell a $20 dinner roll and include a few pounds of meat for free? Then he’d be giving it away and there would be no $ involved in the meat part of it.

    (sry if this was said already. comments > my attention span)

  89. ringo00 says:

    @B: Why not? If he wants to sell it and if he has customers willing to buy his products, what’s the problem. His meat products are not going into the local grocery store. He is basically trying to set up a boutique butcher shop. It is a business model that has worked for numerous other food products. My question is, why can a cattle farmer pay a guy in a truck to come and butcher a cow for the family dinner table, but this guy can’t have his shop?

  90. MeOhMy says:


    This guy is some liberal hippie anti government nutjob.

    Actually he’s more of an ultra-conservative anti-government nutjob. You should learn more about him before you dismiss him offhand. As you admit – IF he has a proper meat processing facility, which includes all sorts of pork barrel cruft that has little to do with actually ensuring the safety of the product.

  91. MrEvil says:

    @ringo00: He can do it, he’s just too lazy to do all the paperwork. The Texas panhandle is crawling with custom slaughter operations that sell the meat they butcher without a problem.

  92. MrEvil says:

    @Troy F.: You didn’t read all my post though, there’s tons of small slaughter operations in my area that have a meat counter just like the supermarket. They don’t seem to have any problem. This guy is just too lazy to do the paperwork.

    I also don’t like his stance on raw milk. Before pasteurization milk was cause for nearly HALF of food borne illness. I hate to play the, it’s for the children card. But if we didn’t outlaw raw milk, there’d be lots of moonbat parents thinking that most good science is the devil (like fooseball) and feeding their kids undulent fever. You cannot give dairy cattle antibiotics to prevent illnesses like that. The antibiotics kill all the bacteria, including the good bacteria required to make yogurt and cheese.

  93. @stupidjerk: Typically butcher shops don’t slaughter animals. They receive “bulk” cuts (there another name for it, I forget), but it basically means they get the animal cut into quarters (say) from the slaughterhouse. Or the whole animal. They then butcher on site into consumer portions. But they don’t slaughter.

    @BigElectricCat: This varies quite a bit by state, from having actual state dress-and-butcher locations for hunting, to hunters being allowed to dress-and-butcher in the field but not at home, to dressing in the field and taking it to a butcher shop, etc.

    It’s quite common for places that handle hunted meat to have an option to have some or all of it donated to food kitchens; a lot of hunters like the hunt and donate the whole thing; others take a few select pieces and donate the rest because they can’t eat that much deer that quickly.

    @MrEvil: “Sorry I haven’t read all the comments, but this guy CAN have a USDA inspector sign off on his meat. … This guy is some liberal hippie anti government nutjob. If he has a proper meat processing facility and he wants to sell cut meat, he can get a USDA inspector.”

    RTFA, and RTFB. He’s a LIBERTARIAN nutjob, not a liberal hippie nutjob, and he’s very conservative, and a fundamentalist Christian. Ad hominem attacks are a lot more effective WHEN YOU FIRST ENSURE THEY’RE NOT OBVIOUSLY WRONG ON THEIR FACE.

    Second, and you probably have to RTFB for this, not sure if it’s in the article, he has attempted to work with the USDA inspectors, and a local humane slaughterhouse went under because of the cost of compliance. (And, in fact, his chicken slaughter process is within the law.)

  94. diddy0071 says:

    How are consumers equipped to determine the safety of meat?

    I’m pretty anti-bureaucracy, but I’m pretty for a food safety agency.?

    Yeah, because the FDA is such a great inspection agency for your beef. It’s been doing such a good job. Please…

  95. The Porkchop Express says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: What is jamon iberico? I know it must involve swine and I also know that I must eat it. Please tell me. Seriously.

    On topic: I do want the meat to be inspected by some sort of expert (not the guy getting my money) before I eat it. there are a few things that can go wrong with meat.

  96. LUV2CattleCall says:


    Heck, it works for all the restaurants in Chicago that are getting around the “You can’t sell faux gras” ban by making it complementary with the purchase of a $25 helping of potatoes… (though the ones that make you order the “special lobster” deserve some attention for their creativity as well)

  97. trujunglist says:

    I’d much rather get my meat from a small time local farmer than a huge factory that could give a rats ass if a rats ass falls into the meat grinder. If I can see the animals, watch him butcher it, and pay about the same price, I don’t really see what the big deal is. It’s not like the FDA really does a fantastic job anyway.

  98. BigElectricCat says:

    @Lo-Pan: Spanish ham, baby.


    Some of the finest hams in the world come from Espana. :)

  99. The Porkchop Express says:

    @forgottenpassword: dear god. Thanks for doing the leg work, but what makes it so expensive and what makes it better?
    I guess I have to look it up. and then find it. and eat. a lot.

  100. consumerd says:

    Why don’t he just set up a business to be say a meat packing place, and he be the exclusive supplier? He could do that and no one would think none the difference. Unless there is laws against that in Virgina.

    I have plenty of places around here.
    ->M&M meats (sold and became stonie’s me thinks) – Guy that owned this lived across my parent’s house for years. Guy was a butcher and basically created 2 companies. His farm was one company and his butcher shop was another company. He was pretty rich and did a good job by butcher and farmer. he’s in his 90’s today and still goes outside to plant flowers even at retirement! That man when he departs this earth, the earth is going to cry. Probably so will the neighbors, and the town. The American indians would have been proud by how he lived. Took nothing more from the land than what he needed.

    I think this is what his old business became after selling out and retiring from the meat business. They have some younger butchers there but they make some really good cuts of meat, the pork steaks are better prices and thicker than what you find in most grocery stores. Me and the wife looked at pork steaks one day and we saw what walmart had, then what stonie’s had and there was no contest. Wal-mart didn’t even rank! The young guys there make some smoked pork tenderloin that is good.

    ->Maryville packing- Not a bad place either. They offer some nice freezer packages. Also processes deer meat.

    ->The packing house- not a bad place either. They make a lot of sausages more and process quite a bit of deer meat. Has some really good bologna.

  101. mikelotus says:

    @sketchy: Human Beings are Omnivores. That means we are suppose to eat meat.

    @P_Smith: I prefer to have it cleaned and plucked myself. This is an animal that eats its own droppings. They are nasty.

    @Lo-Pan: Try Virginia’s prosciutto — its much cheaper and oh so good.

  102. mrearly2 says:

    The problem is CONTROL. The main food controllers, ADM, Cargill, etc., don’t want little people selling a good, healthy product (e.g., raw milk and fresh meats). Instead most folks are forced to buy the chemical-laden cancerous meats and other products, which also keeps the chemical and drug companies in (big) business. And Big Brother is there to keep the little people down, in favor of the Big $$$.

  103. P_Smith says:

    @generalhousewifery: You go so much farther than I would be willing to go. I am a vegetarian and feel incredibly uncomfortable if my friends will not enjoy their meat dinners in front of me.

    Vegetarians are like christians or other religious people. If they are willing to keep their practices to themselves, they’re easy to respect and get along with. It’s the ones who want to tell other people how to live that are met with hostility.

    Going without meat for a meal so I can socialize with vegetarian friends isn’t going to kill me – that’s obvious, since you do it every day – so it’s no big deal. My objection is to the morons who think they can knock a ham sandwich out of my hand and onto the floor. I’ve met people like that.

  104. richcreamerybutter says:

    @B: I’m not okay with unpasteurized milk or uninspected beef @MercuryPDX:I’d eat “unregulated beef” the same day I drink that “raw” (un-homogenized) milk… never.
    Well I wouldn’t recommend either of you travel outside the country!

    @zyodei: Excellent post, especially this part: Go to a Wal-Mart in middle America and look around. Do you see a bunch of healthy people glowing with life? Heeee!

    @TheLoneIguana: @CaptainRoin: Brilliant!

  105. Zyada says:

    Folks, this guy is in Virginia. The law he is complaining about is a Virginia law, not a US law, and it is not enforced by the USDA. There are plenty of states where he could do what he wants, but he would rather bitch about what Virginia won’t let him do than actually find a place where he could do it.

    And if you don’t live in Virgina, this doesn’t affect you and you can’t do anything about it. If you do live in Virginia, write a letter to your state representatives.

    BTW, it is possible to get RABIES from unpasteurized milk and the cow that produced the milk can be completely free from symptoms. Still want unpasteurized milk?

  106. Rusted says:

    There is no way to know if the meat was inspected or not. Food poisoning is not fun and I have had it with the inspected (supposedly) stuff. To say anyone can sell un-inspected meat and let the buyer beware? NO WAY.

  107. ghettoimp says:

    @mikelotus: Human Beings are Omnivores. That means we are suppose to eat meat.
    Actually it means we’re capable of eating meat, but I applaud your efforts to redefine reality.

  108. mikelotus says:

    @ghettoimp: from Webster’s “feeding on both animal and vegetable substances.” But i do applaud your effort, failed that it is, of trying to convince us that you have half a brain.

  109. MissGayle says:

    My great-grandfather owned a dairy, and I still own a share in a herd of cows. We drink raw milk for several reasons, the main one being that pasteurization is only necessary in the first place because of large agribusiness firms mistreating the cows, never allowing them to see the light of day or roam free in a pasture. It causes infections and unhealthy cows – giant agribusiness practices make the milk filled with the infections in the first place – grass fed free range cows simply have far healthier milk from the get-go. Secondly, pasteurizing the milk destroys all the probiotics and beneficial enzymes. Dead milk (milk that has been pasteurized) has little if any true nutritional value outside the calcium (which is a mineral and isn’t alive). Live (“raw”) milk has actual health benefits which are documented. People have been eating cheeses and drinking live milk, yogurt, kefir and other dairy products for thousands of years, yet giant agribusiness firms want you to think their puss-filled dead milk is better for you. It isn’t.

  110. duonexus says:

    As Americans, we want things to be good, fast, and cheap; what we get is cheap, fast, and protected by patronage/bureaucracy.

  111. Bruce_A says:

    @sketchy: I eat what I eat, you eat what you eat. Kindly keep YOUR morality away from my dinner plate. I swear, vegans are worse than evangelical christians.