Utah passes HB 0094 to become second state to permit MEHKOs

By Symbria Patterson, Red Acre Center

Red Acre Center was the driving force behind the Home Consumption and Homemade Food Act that passed in 2018, allowing for food to be made in a home kitchen (unregulated, uninspected, and using meat only if it is rabbit or chicken that the producer raised and processed). It was a huge win for rural Utah: diversified farms selling direct to consumers and those in the city. We felt there was not much else we could do because red meat is regulated at the federal level. 

Then one day, a friend in California texted a copy of a newspaper clipping to me about “the tamale bill.” We were sure, just like North Dakota, Maine, and Wyoming, that the federal government would call them out on this. We also feared that if California were put in the spotlight and called out, no one would try for food freedom. We tried but were unable to reach any California representative in the legislature. 

It was serendipitous that we would do our usual visit to the Slow Food California booth at the Heirloom Expo in Sonoma County and that Peter Ruddock would be staffing the booth. We chatted for a minute, and then I saw the postcard from COOK Alliance and they were talking about that “tamale bill!!”  Peter explained to me what their involvement was. I was beyond excited and shared the news with the Center.  The Center wasn’t quite as excited, as they felt that what California had done was not possible. COOK Alliance was very willing to communicate with us to tell us the process they went through and how they came to the conclusions they did to see their Micro-Enterprise Kitchen bill passed.

Red Acre Center’s analyst was still cautious and contacted FSIS confirming California was correct and that a micro-enterprise kitchen would be legal under the federal guidelines. COOK Alliance has more resources than Red Acre Center, and we are grateful for the time and money they spent to find this most valuable information out. 

Not being able to sell food with meat is limiting. Also, being unregulated and uninspected is not for everyone. California’s Micro-Enterprise Kitchen bill solved both of those problems. With a different approach, we passed an agrotourism bill in 2020, allowing micro-kitchens on farms. Eating onsite is permitted, no limit on dollars earned, and this is a state-wide bill.

In 2021, we broadened the bill (HB 0094), patterning it after the California micro-kitchen bill. With a smaller population base in Utah, the bill is state-wide instead of county by county. There is no limit to the number of meals or money earned. Meals can be picked up or delivered, but no dining on-premises is allowed. The governor signed the bill in March, and the state health department has 180 days to write rules. Then permits can be issued in limited numbers based on the number of businesses per county until July 2022, when those restrictions will be lifted entirely.

Cheers to home cooks and more local food choices!

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