Meat - Custom Processing

This program inspects custom processing facilities that process domestic livestock and/or wild game animals for the animal's owners. These facilities are exempt from the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) official inspection. Facilities are inspected for proper sanitation, record-keeping, and compliance with USDA BSE regulations. Meat processed by custom processors may not be sold to anyone but may be consumed only by the animal's owners.

Steve Blunt

Program Administrator

Quick Links

Actively Licensed Custom Meat Processors

Small Flock Poultry Processing Guidance

Small Flock Poultry Processing Guidance in Spanish

Report on Selling Poultry to Retail Food Establishments

Meat inspection information for meat processors on the necessary documentation needed for an inspection.

Meat processing facilities that process domestic livestock and/or wild game for the owner's consumption are inspected to make sure that proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures are practiced.  Proper labeling of meat packages is required.

Necessary documentation for the inspection:

Custom Meat Processing License Brand Book (for cattle) Water Test Certificate Scale License if applicable Records of processing activities Smokehouse Log

The International HACCP Alliance was developed to provide a uniform program to assure safer meat and poultry products. Custom processing plants are not required to submit HACCP plans as USDA Official plants must. However, the HACCP Alliance website certainly provides guidance to ensure safer meat products. "HACCP" stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.

New state licensing for small and mid-sized poultry processors

Program Brochure: Questions & Answers Regarding the Colorado Custom Meat Processor Law


Forms and Downloads

If you wish to custom process meat animals for the owner, you must obtain a license for your facility. This includes USDA official establishments. Below are the licensing, operating and facility requirements.

License Requirements

Your license fee depends on whether you process domestic & wild game animals, wild game only or operate a mobile slaughter unit. Below is breakdown of the licensing process for each.

Custom Processor of Domestic & Wild Game Animals

Custom Processor of Wild Game Only

Custom Mobile Slaughter Unit

Facility Requirements

Domestic Processor

Refer to the rules for specific facility requirements. The following checklist may be used as a reference for compliance.

Wild Game

Refer to the rules for specific facility requirements. The following checklist may be used as a reference for compliance.

Mobile Slaughter Unit

Refer to the rules for specific requirements.

Related Links

The International HACCP Alliance was developed to provide a uniform program to assure safer meat and poultry products.

Laws and Regulations

Colorado Revised Statutes

Colorado Revised Statutes are made available for public use by the Committee on Legal Services of the Colorado General Assembly through a contractual arrangement with the LexisNexis Group. Any person wishing to reprint and distribute all or a substantial part of the statutes in either printed or electronic format must obtain prior permission of the Committee on Legal Services; permission is not required to reprint fewer than 200 sections of C.R.S. (please see §2-5-118, C.R.S.).

The Lexis Nexis website is the only official source of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Instructions for using Lexis Nexis

Title 35, Article 33: Custom Processing of Meat Animals Act, Sections 35-33-101 to 35-33-407 CRS


Q:   How is the Colorado meat law enforced?

A:   Facilities engaged in custom livestock or wild game meat processing are required to license with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Inspectors visit the facilities and conduct inspections as required by the processor's risk assessment, but at least once a year. They check for proper facility construction and safe and sanitary processing methods.

Q:   Are there any requirements for how a processing facility must be constructed?

A:   Yes, the receiving, and holding areas need to be constructed so that the animals can be handled without being hurt. The processing, refrigeration, freezing and storage areas of a meat processing facility must all be constructed so that the processing can be done in a safe and sanitary manner. For example, walls in all areas of the facility must be constructed of materials that are easily cleaned and sanitized, processing room and cooler floors must be capable of being readily cleaned and properly drained.

Q:   What is meant by "safe and sanitary"?

A:   All equipment used for processing must be cleaned and sanitized regularly at the conclusion of each day's processing. The temperatures of the processing room, refrigerator and freezer must all be appropriate. Employees must use good hygiene. Vermin and pests must be properly controlled. Wild game must be segregated from domestic animals. Pork must be segregated from other meat. Waste must be properly denatured and disposed of. Custom processed meat and wild game meat must be labeled with "NOT FOR SALE", product identity, owner identity, and date of wrapping.

Q:   How much meat will I get from an animal I bring to a processor?

A:   The take home yield of meat from an animal is approximately 40% of the live weight. The actual yield depends on the breed, age and condition of the animal. For example, a 1000# steer will yield about a 615# carcass, from which about 432# of cut, wrapped meat is obtained. The yield of a boneless product from a field dressed wild game animal (animal minus hide, viscera and legs removed at the knee) will be about 40% of the weight of the animal.

Q:   Why did I only get 150# of meat from my 600# elk?

A:   To know the expected yield of meat, you need to know how much the animal weighs before processing. The typical 1.5 year old elk is 350 - 450# live weight. A deer is 125 - 150# typically. An antelope often weighs around 100# live. Some processors may have a scale to weigh your animal carcass with when you check it in.

Q:   I am not sure if I received all the meat cut from the animal I had processed, can the Department help?

A:   Unfortunately, the Department cannot help with this type of problem. The Meat Law has requirements only for the sanitary and proper operation of a processing plant.

Q:   Do I have to take care of a carcass before I bring it to a processor?

A:   Yes! The processor can only work with what you give him. Prompt field dressing (gutting and skinning) and proper handling before delivery are necessary if you want to make the most of the meat on the animal. Because the processor is required to operate in a safe and sanitary manner, the processor may even reject a carcass if it has not been properly handled.

Q:   Doesn't the USDA inspect meat and the processing facilities?

A:   Yes, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA is responsible for inspecting live animals, meat carcasses and meat products and facilities in cases where the meat is being sold. The Colorado Department of Agriculture has an agreement with the USDA where the Colorado Department of Agriculture inspects the custom exempt plants and shares the information with the USDA. In order for meat to be sold, the animal must be slaughtered and processed under USDA inspection at a USDA Official plant.

Contact Us

Steve Blunt
Program Administrator
Program Phone number: (303) 869-9098
Fax number: (303) 466-2860

Sarah Musick
Administrative Assistant
Phone Number: (303) 869-9102