I decided I'd wondered enough about this, so I called Jake at Myers General Store and Locker in Lenoxburg, KY. Here is a summation of what Jake had to say.
He was not aware of any changes coming his way. He is open for business as usual. His operation "is strickly a custom meat processor. " Everything he packages has "NOT FOR SALE" on it. He added that as a result he does not have as much to worry about with the USDA. He has state, county and local overview, but those sanitation and testing requirements are not as stringent as the USDA. Jake said there are many processors in the county, some operating out of garages and the USDA has absolutely no control over these either.
Looking back on my days with Pierre Frozen Foods, which was under strict USDA control, I can vouche that things were not the same. There, the USDA was on-site 24 hours a day. They were there to protect the food supply going to consumers. I remember tales of the bad old days where employees would try to bring in deer to process on the sly and were bounced out in a hurry-- USDA could have shut the plant down and it would have cost the company tens of thousands of dollars before it could re-open. You don't want someone's stanky old deer carcass hanging next to 20 tons of pork shoulder. To give you an idea, if a USDA inspector had caught me walking into the plant without my beard protector or hair net on, he could have shut the plant down. We had a full time microbiologist on staff. Things were extremely tight.
Put in this perspective, I can tell you that we may be talking about two wholly different things here. One, is the big meat processing plants that are now going to require an extra $1/2 mil in testing. This may or may not be a bad thing. I was working for Hudson foods when they had the big 10 million lb beef recall back in 1997. If there really had been E-Coli in their burger, it could have been a disaster to families across the country. Hudson was a major supplier to Burger King as well as the nations schools. As it was, Hudson's recall yielded a return of about 10,000 lbs (.1%)-- the rest had passed through the gut of the nation's hungry without incident. Still Hudson had to go out of business, because of the scare.
On the other hand, in this context, we're talking about custom meat processors, who don't sell what they process to the general public. I've seen Jake take in sides of beef, buffalo, hog, etc. The slaughter takes place off site and Jake has no control over the quality of the meat coming in, only the cleanliness of his own operation. It's hard to control things when your customers are bringing you raw sides thrown in the back of a pickup truck with only some cardboard laid down to keep the blood off the truck bed. In this case, the USDA has no jurisdiction.
Jake is in normal operation. I would suggest anyone who has a mind to do so, should start showing up at their store on the Willow Lenoxburg road on Saturday, November 13 a little after 10 AM and start watching the deer stack up like cordwood in front of the store. Ron or Granny will be behind the counter. Jake will be down in the basement taking in deer. Drop by, grab a seat by the window, and watch the show.
PS: Ask Jake about Ron and the Deer Pearls.