This “food freedom” law removed almost all restrictions from selling homemade food, and it prevents government agencies from regulating a producer.
To sell homemade food, a producer does not need to get any license, permit, inspection, food safety training, etc, and there is no sales limit.
Under this law, there are four main requirements for selling homemade food products:
- They cannot contain meat (see exception for poultry below)
- They must be sold directly within the state (no sales through stores, restaurants, shipping, interstate, etc)
- They must be consumed in a home or at certain types of events
- The customer must be informed that the product is homemade and not regulated
Because of that 3rd requirement, there still might be some use for Montana’s cottage food law. A producer might use that law if their homemade food products would be consumed in a location other than a home, a community event, or a food service establishment.
This law also specifically caters to certain types of small farms. Someone who raises a limited number of poultry can use this law to sell their poultry, or use their poultry meat in their products. Also, someone who runs a small dairy can sell milk or cream under this law.
Your food products must be consumed within a home or at a “traditional community social event”, such as a farmers market, wedding, funeral, church gathering, school event, potluck, etc.
If your products would be consumed somewhere other than those venues or a food service establishment, you might be able to sell them with Montana’s cottage food law.
You must inform customers that your products have not been licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations.
You can sell any type of food (including perishable food), except for:
- Anything that contains meat
- Exception: If you raise poultry and slaughter fewer than 1,000 birds per year, you can sell your poultry, as well as products made with your poultry. For example, you could sell a chicken pot pie, as long as the chicken meat comes from your birds. You could not buy chicken meat elsewhere (like a store or another farm) and use it in your products. You must follow the record keeping requirements listed in 9 CFR 381.175.
- Milk or cream
- Exception: If you run a small dairy, meaning you have no more than 5 lactating cows, 10 lactating goats, 10 lactating sheep, or 10 other lactating hoofed mammals, you can sell their milk (or cream), provided that you follow additional requirements in Section 3, Subsection 8 in this law.
Contact the Department of Livestock if you want to sell pet food or animal feed.
Although there are no specific labeling requirements, you must inform customers that your products have not been licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations.
Montana’s path to a cottage food law was unlike any other state.
In 2013, they passed a bill (HB 630) that required the relevant departments to study the current food situation in the state, compare it to common standards, and make recommendations for improvement.
The study was published in May 2014 and heavily focused on the development of a cottage food law, with very specific recommendations about how that law would be implemented. Montana’s old cottage food law followed those recommendations very closely.