Some Necessary Steps for Producers and Consumers

steak dinner

​Locally produced meats are in demand, but consumers and producers need to know how to have their beef purchases and sales documented prior to custom processing and harvesting. Photo courtesy UTIA.

Increasing demand for local foods includes a growing interest in local-produced meats. Some producers fill this demand by marketing meat to consumers. Others are opting to offer live animals for sale to consumers who may then, as owners of the animal, have it harvested and processed to their specifications at a custom-exempt processing facility.

Specialists with University of Tennessee Extension caution that both producers and consumers need to understand what is involved in the sale of a live animal and how it differs from purchase of retail meat.

“Custom-exempt processing may only be done for the owner of the animal,” said Rob Holland, director of the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture. “Meat harvested and processed by this method cannot be sold, and is labeled ‘not for sale.’ This meat is exclusively for use by the owner and their nonpaying family, guests and employees,” he said.

Holland stresses that producers marketing live animals for custom-exempt processing must clearly communicate and document the sale of the animal to prevent any notion that they may be selling meat. Such communications include avoiding any terms associated with meat and clearly stating that a live animal is being sold. The price should be set on the value of the animal, either by the head or by the live weight.

Megan Leffew, a marketing specialist with the CPA, adds that producers should provide and retain a copy of a detailed bill of sale for all animals sold. “Both producer and buyer should document the transfer of funds for the purchase. In addition, the buyer should pay the processing facility and communicate with the facility staff about details of harvesting, processing and packaging,” Leffew said.

For more information see the UT Extension publication A General Guide to Marketing Live Animals for Custom-Exempt Harvesting and Processing (PB1821). This publication and additional educational resources for the value-added beef program are available online at

More information about the CPA and its services are available online at the center’s website:

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Rob Holland, Director, Center for Profitable Agriculture,

Megan Bruch Leffew, Marketing Specialist, Center for Profitable Agriculture,