Nowadays consumers are more willing to pay extra for a rack of ribs if it’s produced nearby. A local bone-in ribeye, on average, costs about $1 more than a conventional steak. A pound of local sliced bacon has a $2 upcharge, according to retail reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What are we paying for when we pay more for local meat? Lots of things. But small producers say one key issue that’s holding them back, and driving up costs, is the strict rules when it comes to how they slaughter their animals.

There aren’t enough government-regulated slaughterhouses to go around anymore, for one. The number of small federally inspected cattle slaughter plants (under 10,000 head per year) declined by 12 percent between 2001 and 2013, according to the USDA.

Meanwhile, the slaughterhouses that aren’t as heavily regulated — called “custom slaughterhouses” — place too many restrictions on which cuts of meat small producers can sell, some small farmers say.

Here is the rest of my article for The Salt and NPR.org about the PRIME Act, a new law that would make it easier for more home-grown meat to reach consumers.


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