What You Should Know

Cattle at the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center
When producers sell live animals to consumers, buyers become involved in the harvesting process. University of Tennessee experts say buyers need to understand the process and associated regulations. ​Photo of Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education commercial herd courtesy UTIA.

More and more, consumer demand for locally grown food includes an interest in locally raised meat animals. When producers sell live animals to consumers, buyers become involved in the harvesting process, and Rob Holland, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture, says buyers need to understand the process and associated regulations. 

Holland says, for example, the buyer is responsible for communicating with the meat processing facility that will be harvesting, processing and packaging the meat. Although the seller may deliver the animal to the processor for the owner, Holland says it is the buyer who will need to make several important decisions about processing.

“Once purchased, the animal becomes the property of the consumer,” Holland explains. “The animal is then processed to the buyer’s specifications at a custom-exempt facility. The meat from such a facility is prepared for the exclusive use of the owner and may only be served to the non-paying family, guests and employees of the owner. It cannot be sold.”

Dwight Loveday, an associate professor of food science and UT Extension specialist, says owners instruct the processing facility as to their preference for various cuts of meat. Cutting instructions are often provided using a generic ‘cut sheet’ that shows many processing options. An example of a cut sheet can be found online in the UT Extension publication “
Improving Communications with Your Beef Processor,” (pages 12 and 13). The publication can be found online at the Center for Profitable Agriculture website: ag.tennessee.edu/cpa. Just click on the menu link for “Value-Added Beef Programs” under the “Program Areas” menu tab.

Loveday says the buyer will also need to specify any packaging preferences. These may also be noted on the cut sheet. This step is particularly important when there are charges for different packing styles.

Finally, payment and pickup are required, and should be agreed to by everyone involved before the animal arrives at the processing facility. Standard charges, plus any additional custom charges, should be clear. Any special requests made of the processing facility (such as a special trim level, a longer aging period, etc.) should be noted and any additional charges stated at the beginning of harvest.

Some processing operations require full or partial payment when the animal arrives, while others only require full payment when the meat is picked up. Some operations may take multiple forms of payment; others may not take credit cards or personal checks. Payment should be made by the owner of the animal directly to the facility, with receipts retained by both parties.

For more information, visit the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture website or click this URL:

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. 



Rob Holland, director, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777,

Dwight Loveday, associate professor, Food Science and Technology, 865-974-7344,