Marketing Poultry Slaughtered Under USDA Exemption

Are you raising poultry and wondering what rules apply to you? The following summary states where you can sell your poultry depending on how it was processed and what other regulations apply.
Marketing Poultry Slaughtered Under USDA Exemption - Articles


Producer/ Grower 20,000 bird exemption

USDA exempts producers who raise and slaughter less than 20,000 poultry on their premises in a calendar year.

Producers have to contact USDA/FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) to determine their exemption category and ensure compliance with all USDA requirements to maintain their exemption.

Producers under 20,000 exemption category (but more than 1,000 birds) are under sole jurisdiction and oversight of USDA.

Only growers/processors of less than 1,000 birds (1000-limit exemption category) are required to register with PA Department of Agriculture (PDA) and must be inspected prior to operating. Visit for more information.

How may poultry be processed? Slaughtering methods

Selling MethodOn-FarmCustomUSDA
Farmers MarketYes*Yes***Yes
On-Farm SalesYes*Yes***Yes
CSA OperationsYes*Yes***Yes
Buying ClubsYes*Yes***Yes
Retail StoresYes*NoYes
Schools and HospitalsYes*NoYes
Out of StateNo**NoYes

*Assumes 20,000 or fewer birds sold per year
**Unless also USDA Inspected
***All birds must be pre-sold before slaughter

What are the regulatory requirements?

FacilitiesPDA Sanitation InspectionsUSDA Sanitation InspectionPDA Warehouse RegistrationSpecified Labeling
On-Farm ProcessorYes*OptionalYes**Yes
Custom ProcessorNoNoNoYes
USDA ProcessorNoYesYes**Yes
Farm (not doing processing)NoNoYes**n/a***

*Unless USDA inspected
**Assumes product held overnight at farm
***Except as required by FDA for marketing purposes
Note: Farmers selling through farm stands and farmers markets must also maintain the appropriate license for doing so.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

"Can I sell poultry that I raised and processed on my farm using a rented mobile processing unit?"

Yes. According to the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), "FSIS has determined that when a grower producing poultry under the Producer/Grower Exemption rents slaughtering or processing equipment and operates such equipment on his or her premises, he or she is NOT disqualified for the Producer/Grower Exemption." The Producer/Grower must follow basic sanitary standards for on-farm slaughter of poultry and be under inspection by PDA.

"Can I sell poultry that I raised but have processed by a custom butcher?"

Birds that will be processed off farm by a licensed custom processor need to be sold to the end user before the birds are slaughtered. Otherwise, such poultry can only be used for personal consumption by the producer for whom the birds were slaughtered, including that individual's family and/or farm workers. After being processed by a custom processor, poultry may not enter into commerce of any kind. Producers may sell poultry (before slaughtering) to individual customers, providing them with a written receipt for the sale of the birds. The producer (the seller) may arrange the service of processing and delivery of finished product to the buyer. These transactions may occur at a farmers market, but both producer and buyer are responsible for maintaining records and receipts sufficient to support the aforementioned arrangements.

"Does the poultry that I raise, slaughter and sell at farmers markets, restaurants, etc., need to be labeled?"

Yes, all exempted poultry must be labeled. The label and/or shipping container must include:

  • Producer's name
  • Producer's address
  • The statement, Exempt P.L. 90-492

"If I am selling my poultry at farmers markets, does it have to be frozen?"

No. Poultry may be sold fresh or frozen. Whether you are selling fresh or frozen poultry, proper temperatures must be maintained and monitored according to PDA requirements. Cold products need to be stored at 41oF degrees or lower and frozen products need to be stored frozen to the touch.

"Do I need to have my poultry processing area inspected and registered with PDA?"

Yes. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspects for sanitation. Contact the PDA, Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services (717-787-4315)

"Can I sell exempt poultry that I raised and processed on my farm across state lines?"

No. Poultry raised and slaughtered under the USDA FSIS Poultry Exemptions can only be sold intra-state (within state lines). For poultry to be sold out of state, it must be processed under USDA inspection.


Contact: PDA Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services at 717-787-4315 or

Cornell Small Farms Program