June: What Do Consumers Want to Know?
By Lydia Zerby
We recently asked readers to “let us know one thing you would like to learn more about related to Iowa agriculture.” In this edition, discover more of their questions, including how farmers treat livestock illnesses, what requirements must be followed to sell direct to consumers and how consumers can purchase directly from Iowa farmers and producers. Find answers to these topics and learn how to submit your questions!
Continuing this series, in a recent Fresh Pickings eNewsletter edition, we asked readers to “let us know one thing you would like to learn more about related to Iowa agriculture.” At Iowa FFP, we encourage a two-way dialog and seek to share content that is relevant to what readers are currently interested in receiving. Throughout the coming months, we will share answers to actual questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit your question, and we might answer it in a future edition! Of course, if you would like an immediate answer, you can always contact us.
Question: How do farmers treat illness in animals?
Answer: Livestock farmers consult with their veterinarians to determine the best treatment for farm animals. Just like how we may need antibiotics to feel better, sometimes farmers must use antibiotics to treat farm animals that get sick. All meat, poultry and dairy foods sold in the U.S. are free of antibiotic residues, as required by federal law.
If a farm animal does get sick and needs antibiotics, farmers must follow strict U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for the proper dosage, duration and withdrawal time. Or, in other words, the time between when the animal is treated and when it goes to market. As an added layer of protection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) samples meat and poultry products to ensure they are free of antibiotic residues.
In the rare case when a product tests positive for antibiotic residues, it is removed from the food supply chain and never goes to market. This policy protects the food system, public health and consumers.
Prevention is Key
Farmers and veterinarians are focused on the whole health of an animal and preventing disease in the first place. Implementing improved animal-care practices, vaccines and strict biosecurity protocols on farms help animals stay healthy and reduce the need for antibiotics.
Safe Food Preparation
To ensure that meat and poultry products are safe to eat, follow the basic steps for safely preparing foods – clean, separate, cook and chill.
- Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often. Make sure to use clean utensils and cooking surfaces when cooking.
- Separate — Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods.
- Cook — Cook to proper temperatures, checking with a food thermometer.Chill — Refrigerate promptly. Chill leftovers within two hours or sooner if needed based on the ingredients.
Remember, meat is tested to ensure it’s antibiotic-free. You don’t have to worry about cooking to “destroy antibiotics” or about antibiotics affecting human health: they aren’t there in the first place. Just focus on making the meat taste great and cooking it to a safe temperature based on USDA guidelines. Always use a digital read meat thermometer to ensure food temperatures are accurate.
Question: What are the requirements for farmers and local businesses to sell directly to consumers?
Answer: Iowa growers and producers must follow Iowa food licensing requirements and regulations based on the type of food, the level of processing, the scale of the operation and the type of consumer. The state regulations for marketing farm products directly to consumers or retail establishments can be confusing and overwhelming. However, these regulations have been created to address food safety concerns.
The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (IDIA) has regulatory authority over most food manufacturers and commercially packaged retail foods sold in Iowa. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) is involved in regulating meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. The level of regulation depends on the type of product, the amount of processing, where and to whom the product is sold, and how much product an individual sells.
The IDIA offers four types of licenses for home‐based food businesses:
- Home food establishment
- Food service establishment (includes catering)
- Retail food establishment
- Food processing plant
Licenses are typically used for commercial businesses but can also be issued for an individual’s private residence, providing they meet the regulatory requirements.
In the world of food safety, some foods are not shelf‐stable and require refrigeration. They include meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, processed foods, and baked goods, such as custard and cream pies. This classification affects the type of license required to sell the product. There are multiple types of licenses that allow a producer to sell foods that require refrigeration.
Labeling for Meat and Poultry Products
All meat and poultry products must have an official label that has been approved by IDALS Meat & Poultry Bureau. The producer must be able to prove any claims included on the label, and the information provided must not be false or misleading. This standard also applies to signs and handouts at the point of sale.
The label must typically include*:
- Name, address and zip code of manufacturer
- For private labels, the phrase “distributed by” or “prepared for” and the name and contact information of the responsible party
- Mark of inspection (including processing plant’s establishment number)
- The product’s true name and net weight
- Warning statement to “Keep Frozen” or “Keep Refrigerated” as necessary
- “Safe Handling” label for all raw products
- Ingredient statement if the product is comprised of two or more ingredients (required information for state‐inspected products will be determined during the label approval process).
* Some exemptions apply
Question: How can I find local farmers, and where can I purchase their products to support Iowa agriculture?
Answer: Direct-to-consumer marketing outlets are venues or practices used by producers to sell products directly to their end consumers. For farmers, these include Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), farmers markets and agritourism operations. Learn more about each option below and click on the links to find Iowa farms to support.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs
Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
In a traditional CSA model:
- Members share the risks and benefits of food production with the farmer.
- Members buy a share of the farm’s production before each growing season.
- In return, they receive regular distributions of the farm’s bounty throughout the season.
- The farmer receives advance working capital, gains financial security, earns better crop prices, and benefits from the direct marketing plan.
Iowa Local Beef Directory
Looking for local beef? Browse the Iowa Local Beef Directory to find farms in your area looking to sell their beef directly to the public.
Approximately 200 farmers markets in Iowa provide direct marketing outlets for fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods and various products from eggs to meat, wine, cheese and crafts.