Posted August 12, 2014
Since the Meat Collective Alliance launched this website, seven individuals from across the country have purchased the "Mighty Meat Collective Startup Guide."
We hear rumors of a Southern California Meat Collective, an Austin Meat Collective, a Montana Meat Collective and more.
A few of these people have emailed us some questions and, since our forum is still under construction, I'd like to post something about the main question we keep getting: How to approach the USDA or State Department of Agriculture about the Meat Collective model.
Mark Trout, who wishes to start the Southern California Meat Collective, specifically had some questions about dealing with regulators when it comes to using USDA-inspected animals versus custom-exempt animals for classes. Mark sent me his revised version of the proposal that I include in the Mighty Meat Collective Startup Guide. I read through the proposal and urged Mark to not send it yet. Instead I suggested that he find out if he can get a good source of USDA-inspected meat for his classes, so that he wouldn't have to even approach the state or county about using custom-exempt meat. This is what I would suggest to all of you: Try using USDA-inspected meat whenever possible, or at least at first, and then make sure that you are following all the rules regarding that. Once you've established your Meat Collective using USDA meat, then you can approach the State or County about using custom-exempt meat. Dumping all of this on the State Dept of Ag before you have even gotten started as a business might not be the best approach. Here is what I wrote:
"I would first find out if you can just use USDA-inspected meat (i.e. get a constant source for that), and then find a local USDA rep to talk to about using USDA-inspected meat for classes. There should't be a problem, and you shouldn't need a license to do that but you never know. And it's good to have someone in the USDA just know what you are doing.Then, I would find out who at the state or county level you can talk to just by phone first, and establish a relationship with that person. Do a basic gist conversation and then tell them you can send a detailed proposal. I find these people are more responsive when they hear our human voice and we sound normal and nice."
Also: I urged him to talk to Jon Gonzalez, who started the El Dorado Meat Collective in California earlier this year. If more than one Meat Collective is going to exist within a given state (and I assume this will be common over time) it's important that those Meat Collective's ban together and try to get on the same page with regulators.
Also: When taking my original WSDA proposal from the Startup Guide and adapting it for your use, be sure to make it all relevant to YOU. Here is what i wrote Mark:
"In your proposal there is a part titled WSDA/ODA/USDA. Since this was a proposal for the WSDA, you will want to maybe change that header to "History of the Meat Collective Model" or something. And then include the fact that a version of the proposal you are sending to the california folks, was sent to the WSDA and that the WSDA agreed with the ODA in their determination. You might also include the text from their determination letter that I included in the ebook. Also in the summation part of the proposal you should state that not only has the ODA said the PMC activities don't qualify for any licenses or permits, but the WSDA has determined the same thing for the the Olympia and Seattle Meat Collectives in Washington. Also, in the summation of my original proposal there are lines like "the ODA has advised us." You will want to be sure that it doesn't sound like the ODA advised you, but that the ODA advise the PMC."
What I realized, in reading Mark's adaptation of my proposal, is that we should probably just create a template for everyone to use with blank lines to fill in where relevant. We will work on getting that, and add that to the ebook.
-Camas Davis, Owner (PMC), Founder (MCA)