Column: Wyoming explores Own Your Own Beef on the Hoof


By Michael Cox, Montrose Press (CO)  

Jan 7, 2021


They are shooting off fireworks up in Wyoming this week. The reason for the celebration is that the Wyoming legislature just passed another amendment to the state’s Food Freedom Act, a five-year-old, work-in-progress bill that they are kind of making up as they go. The newest addition will allow ranchers to sell beef direct to consumers. Well sort of.


It is a little complicated, but under this new rule that takes effect in July, consumers can buy into the herd or buy what are called animal shares. That makes them an “owner of the herd” and an owner can eat his own beef without USDA inspection. The fellow who started the whole Food Freedom Act thing is Wyoming State Representative Tyler Lindholm (R). Lindholm says: “Let ranchers and farmers sell herd shares for their animals. That way the entire herd is ‘owned’ by all the customers before slaughter, thereby meeting the exemption standards of the federal law. And now the rancher does not have to jump through the hoops of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and can utilize the smaller mom and pop butchers that still exist in most of our small towns.”


By skirting the federal regs, consumers can end up buying meat cuts other than just ground beef. Lindholm was meticulous, if nothing else, in his construction of the law. The consumer who wants beef makes a legal, document enforced, purchase of “Animal Shares” before slaughter. Then the consumer gets his steaks, roasts, brisket, rib, etc. butchered and packaged. The whole transaction is done outside of the normal USDA inspection system.


Baylen Linnekin, a board member of the nonprofit Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, says that such a transaction is still illegal in 49 other states. “It’s (also) why the Wyoming law could be a game-changer for ranchers in the state and — should other states follow suit — a valuable new revenue stream for farmers and ranchers across the country.”


The whole Food Freedom Act concept was to open previously illegal alternative markets for producers, food entrepreneurs and the consumer. Linnekin says the act has delivered in its promise with not one single case of food borne illness related to any of the products sold.


Still, we are turning a corner here, headed into a more volatile situation...