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Four meat inspection sites approved for operation in 2023 by Arkansas.

Arkansas Expands Meat Inspection Program to Increase Access for Livestock Producers

After several years of efforts, the Arkansas Meat Inspection Program has made significant progress in expanding livestock producers’ access to state meat inspection services. In 2023, four meat processing facilities in Arkansas have been approved to offer state meat inspection services.

According to Dan Douglas, the Arkansas Meat Inspection Program Manager, the goal is to continue expanding the state inspection program to have facilities in all parts of the state that raise livestock. The aim is to provide livestock producers with a place to have their animals harvested and processed, allowing them to market locally raised and processed protein products to consumers.

The program started with two plants and has now expanded to four, with two more expected to join soon. Additionally, other plants have shown interest in joining the program, indicating a growing demand for local and regionally processed meat.

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The expansion of the Arkansas Meat Inspection Program includes the approval of two facilities – Arkansas State University’s Meat Market in Jonesboro and JACO Meats in Hope – in March. These facilities offer state meat inspection services and play a role in training students on meat processing, regulations, and sanitary processing. Similarly, Ferguson’s Packing Company in Atkins and Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge have also been approved to provide state meat inspection services.

Since the launch of the program, about 128,613 pounds of beef, pork, and lamb have been processed, with 99% of the processed meat being beef. The expansion of the program has been welcomed by livestock producers and meat processors who see the value in providing locally sourced and processed meat products to consumers.

The efforts to expand the meat inspection program align with the broader goals of investing in local and regional food systems, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need to diversify the types of animals being slaughtered has also been recognized, as it contributes to the survivability of small and medium-sized processing plants.

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The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has played a crucial role in providing resources and guidance to prospective meat processing facilities seeking to join the state meat inspection program. To support the expansion of meat processing facilities in Arkansas, the department allocated $10.4 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

In addition to the state program, Arkansas has also joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s State Meat and Poultry Inspection program, allowing for up to 50% of the state’s operating funds, training, and other assistance to be provided by the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Overall, the expansion of the Arkansas Meat Inspection Program represents a significant step forward in supporting local livestock producers and creating opportunities for smaller meat processing facilities in the state.