Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County farm is under investigation for what inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services say is a growing concern – farmers slaughtering livestock and selling meat without a license.
According to a search warrant filed last week, inspectors made an undercover buy of a slaughtered goat from the farm of Juan and Maria Alonso, who allegedly have been operating an illegal slaughter, processing and sales operation.
Although people who violate these laws can be charged with a crime, agriculture officials say the most likely outcome is a civil penalty, a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.
Brian Long, a state agriculture department spokesman, says the agency’s goal is not to charge people with crimes but to educate them about the laws regarding the safe and licensed sale of meat.
Ultimately, he says, the practice puts consumers in danger.
"In some cases, there are cultural differences," Long said. "There is a lack of understanding of what is required in North Carolina."
Long says that the processing and selling of meat by unlicensed facilities is a growing problem in North Carolina. People either aren't aware that they need permission, or they are just trying to make fast money, he said.
There are 188 licensed processors in the state. In addition, there are 706 meat and poultry handlers registered with the agriculture department who take animals to plants to be slaughtered, processed and packaged, then sell the meat. Of the 706 registered handlers, 486 are farmers.
Long say that, without inspections, the process is unsanitary and can lead to diseased meat.
"It's a public health issue," Long said. "We don't want to stand in the way of legitimate commerce, but we want people to do it the right way, to do it the safe way."