Oregon lawmakers approve state meat inspection to strengthen local meat

Insufficient livestock slaughter options in Oregon have convinced lawmakers to reinstate a state meat inspection program, but some experts say another approach would be more effective.

During the special legislative session that concluded June 26, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 4206, under which the Oregon Department of Agriculture can again regulate livestock slaughter and processing.

The idea is to expand the opportunities for small-scale processors who currently process meat that can’t be sold commercially, thereby reducing the need for livestock producers to ship animals to USDA-certified facilities.

However, even proponents of the program acknowledge it will be expensive for ODA to re-establish state meat inspection, which was ended in Oregon in the 1970s for financial reasons.

“Budget cuts came along and eliminated it,” said Jerome Rosa, executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

There are 13 USDA-inspected meat facilities in Oregon where livestock can be processed for commercial sale, which means ranchers who want to sell to restaurants and retail outlets must often travel for hours to reach one, he said.

Meanwhile, in Oregon there are also 16 non-USDA facilities, where people can take livestock for processing for their own consumption, Rosa said. Oftentimes, consumers will join together to buy an animal and split up the processed meat.

Reinstating state meat inspection will hopefully strengthen connections between local ranchers and consumers who want to buy their meat, while also raising the demand for livestock among small-scale processors — thus increasing prices to growers, he said.

“We hope it will increase processing,” Rosa said.