Wisconsin has two avenues for selling homemade food: this ruling, which allows baked goods, and the pickle bill, which allows some types of canned goods. Under this ruling, home cooks can sell their nonperishable baked goods directly to anyone in the state, and there is no limit on how much they can sell.
Wisconsin tried to change their pickle bill for many years, but they were always thwarted by strong political efforts from the Wisconsin Bakers Association and the Wisconsin Grocer’s Association, which were concerned about competition. It made no sense that Wisconsin would allow canned goods, which are relatively risky, and not allow baked goods, some of the least risky foods.
With multiple unsuccessful attempts at changing the law (2013 AB 182 & 2015 SB 330), the restriction for home bakers was finally overturned by a lawsuit against the state, which took over two years to come to a full resolution. This successful group effort involved plaintiffs Lisa Kivirist (author of Homemade For Sale), Kriss Marion, and Dela Ends, along with legal support from the Institute for Justice. The opposition from the associations were so strong that the judge had to clarify his ruling twice, and clearly became annoyed at their efforts to restrict home bakers.
Even after the successful lawsuit allowed Wisconsin residents to sell baked goods, the ag department continued to try to restrict them by interpreting “baked goods” to mean only items made with flour. Advocates in the state had to file yet another lawsuit in 2021, which was also successful and clarified that all non-perishable baked goods are allowed. They are also working on a lawsuit that would allow more than just baked goods to be sold.
Wisconsin is the only state that has created an allowance for cottage foods through a lawsuit. Minnesota also tried in 2013, which likely influenced the passage of their new and improved law a couple of years later. Lawsuits have also been created in New Jersey, North Dakota, and Nebraska.
Wisconsin is also now one of a handful of states that has no law allowing cottage food operations (and doesn’t need one). However, a bill may be passed in the future (like 2017 SB 271), which would clarify (and probably slightly restrict) the current allowances.
Because there are no official regulations for home bakers in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Farmers Union created wisconsincottagefood.com, which provides excellent and reasonable guidance for home cooks. All home bakers should read through that entire website. There is also a Facebook page with provides updates.
All of your products must be baked goods that are non-PHFs (do not require refrigeration). If your product is not a baked good, OR if it requires refrigeration, it is not allowed under this law.
You can sell up to $5,000 of home-canned goods by using the pickle bill.
If you are unsure about whether your product is a non-PHF, you can get it tested in a lab for about $25.
You are allowed to make basic frostings for your baked items. Frostings that contain cream or eggs, and require refrigeration, are not allowed.
Although you do not need any licensing or permission from the state to start your business, your local town or county may have requirements for home-based businesses.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
"This product was made in a private home not subject to state licensing or inspection"
Forrager Cookie Company
123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, WI 73531
Ingredients: enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), butter (cream, salt), semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural flavors), brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract (vanilla bean extract, alcohol, sugar), baking soda, salt (salt, calcium silicate)
Contains: milk, eggs, wheat, soy
Produced on 12/4/2021
There are NO current requirements for labeling, but the Wisconsin Farmers Union strongly recommends following the labeling requirements in the pickle bill, which is shown above. Again, this is optional, but highly recommended.