As Pandemic Stirs Fears of Food Shortages, Wyoming Leads Nation Towards Food Liberty

P. Gardner Goldsmith | April 7, 2020
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During a time when Americans are worried about the supply chain and the food supply, it’s nice to see another positive story about how individualists are freeing the market in Wyoming!

As Baylen Linnekin reports for Reason, the five-year-old Farm Freedom Act – a statute that lifted many government regulations against peaceful private food transactions – has been so beneficial to consumers, farmers, and new food businesses, that in February, legislators expanded it to allow homemade jams and jellies to be sold in supermarkets and restaurants.

And now, more success. A few weeks ago, the Wyoming legislature amended the law again to expand food freedom by wriggling into a gap in “regulations” from the unconstitutional United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Writes Linnekin:

A new animal share amendment will let consumers buy individual cuts of meat directly from ranchers though an animal-share agreement, completely outside of the typical U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection regime. That's something that's still illegal in the other 49 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.

As one might imagine, an “animal share” is a buying agreement whereby consumers agree to purchase different portions of a head of livestock.

Said Wyoming State Rep. Tyler Lindholm (R), co-sponsor of the original Farm Freedom Act:

Let ranchers and farmers sell herd shares for their animals. That way the entire herd is 'owned' by all of 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"

This is fantastic. And it exposes a level of normalcy bias about meat sales that I was unaware I held. Perhaps I’m alone, but, despite knowing the feds imposed all kinds of regulations on slaughterhouse owners and on wholesale and retail meat sellers, I simply accepted the idea that ranchers sold their heads of cattle or swine to slaughterers, who then passed the cuts to distributors and retailers. And over that process, of course, I knew the USDA imposed a variety of “health standards”.

I never considered the fact that DC political intervention was mandating another layer of expense to the cost of American meat products by requiring heads of store-destined cattle or swine to be slaughtered in USDA-approved slaughterhouses.

This new amendment to the Wyoming law utilizes an exemption in the USDA diktat – and it comes at a key time in COVID-19 America.

The Wyoming amendment takes advantage of an exemption created under § 623(a) of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which governs interstate and even most intrastate livestock slaughter and meat sales in this country. The FMIA exemption allows custom slaughtering of livestock by and for an "owner" of the animal.

And the amendment allows for sale of livestock shares, so that consumers can join forces and claim personal ownership of a single head, thus allowing circumvention of the USDA, and expanding the number of slaughterers who can handle demand.

And that reduces costs, helping everyone.

One rancher, Bonita Carlson, told Linnekin that the amendment will drastically reduce costs, allowing her to avoid having to send her cattle to out-of-state feed lots prior to slaughter in out-of-state shacks.

We will be selling 93% lean ground beef for much cheaper than they're selling 80/20 at the grocery store… We should be competitive enough that a single mom can purchase ground beef from us, too.

But one must stress this is just a workaround. It’s incredibly beneficial; it reduces costs; it shows the vibrancy of the market that political impositions smothers, but it does not openly resist the USDA – an agency started without any constitutional justification. 

In fact, as Linnekin notes, subsection 623(a) of the Federal Meat Inspection Act not only layers needless and unjustified federal commands on interstate meat trade, it imposes those commands on intrastate meat trade.

The hidden costs we pay because politicians and bureaucrats tell us how to live our lives.

Because politicians and bureaucrats treat us like cattle ourselves.