Cottage Food: What do you think?

cottage food

Cottage food, not to be confused with cottage cheese, is food produced in someone’s house, rather than in a commercial kitchen, and offered up for sale. You’d be most likely to find cottage food at farm stands and farmers markets, and several states are taking a second look at food regulations to decide whether they should loosen restrictions on homemade food. Think homemade pickles, cookies, breads, and cheeses.

Advocates of cottage food say allowing sales means more food freedom, and opponents worry about food safety. Let’s take a look at some of the cottage food rules in different states, and you can decide for yourself: what do you think is a fair way to regulate cottage food? Should it be regulated at all?

Cottage Food in Texas

In Texas, the state legislature recently relaxed the rules on food sales, but some cottage food makers are opposed to some of the labeling requirements still in effect. They feel that asking home food-makers to list all ingredients on the label is way too much. When you buy a cookie at a coffee shop, for example, you don’t get to see the ingredients list.

Over in New Hampshire

New Hampshire is deciding early this week about whether to allow cottage food sales and whether to allow farms to sell raw milk on-site. Right now, New Hampshire allows people to get their home kitchens licensed, and they can sell goods produced in a licensed home kitchen. The new rules would be even more laid back, doing away with the licensing all together.

Oklahoma’s Petition for Cottage Food

A woman in Oklahoma has begun collecting signatures to allow cottage food sales from goods produced in unlicensed, uninspected home kitchens. The petition is online and already has over 2000 signatures.

From what I’ve read about cottage food laws, the main things they dictate are:

  • Whether you can sell food produced in home kitchens at all.
  • Where you can sell food produced in home kitchens.
  • Whether home kitchens need to be licensed, inspected, or both.
  • What homemade foods people can sell.

Given those variables, what cottage food rules seem reasonable to you?

Image Credit: Cottage Food photo via Shutterstock

  1. Mande Kalbfleisch

    WOW! You have NO idea what you are talking about. Cottage Food producers in TX are not upset because we have to give an ingredient list. It is the format and detail of the list that is the problem. The proposed law in TX if it passes would force us to measure each ingredient in metric metric measurement, then on each label place them in descending order by weight all on a label with permanent ink. It would take over an hour to make each label. Cottage Food producers are also NOT allowed in TX to sell at farmers markets. There are some new regulations going into effect for TX farmers markets but they are unrelated to cottage food producers!

    1. Diane

      I’ve been selling whole grain breads out of my home for years. Bread is considered a low risk food according to the new Cottage Law here in Tx. The 20-25 loaves I make each week DO have a label on them with the ingredients listed in descending order, but only for folks with allergies or aversions to certain ingredients. And the only reason they are printed with permanent ink is because that is the kind of printer I have. The weight issue is ridiculous! Each loaf in a batch weighs the same because I weigh out the dough (to the gram!!!), but week to week the batches are NEVER exactly the same…am I supposed to weigh each loaf each week and change the labels? Our local bakeries have no such restrictions. And I don’t understand why we can sell out of our homes, but not at Farmers Markets…what exactly is the difference? It seems the TX legislature gives a little then holds back on the important things while imposing wild regulations almost no one can comply with.

  2. Jessica Allen

    I know alot of people that make food in their own home that would blow your mind , it is just that good. Their kitchens are 10 times cleaner than any restraunt or grocery store. I think the goverment has stuck their pointy nose into a place that needs to be left alone.

  3. Shannon

    Also, the reason the Texas bakers are up in arms isn’t so much that we have to label. It is because the health department is adding rules that go against the legislative intent of the original law. The authors of the law flat out told then that they went too far, and they still published the proposed rules. They are trying to completely rewrite the law and overstep their authority.

  4. Susie Catalina

    My Italian mother in-law put three kids through college selling pies and baked goods from her home back in the 60’s. Can’t imagine how she would have managed this task now days. With the economy the way it is I think that a person should be able to make ends meet any way possible whether it be by baking in their own home are bartering, anything to stay off of government aid. Please allow us to help ourselves, don’t dictate me out of business before I even get started.

  5. Danielle

    Becky, it isn’t really that simple. In Texas, the elected officials voted to approve the amendment to SB 81 to allow some items to be made in a cottage foods production. The law said that the labels should state the producer’s name, address, and disclaimer that it was made in a kitchen that was not inspected by a health department. No problem! However, the department of state health services, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, wrote almost 12 pages of ADDITIONAL rules, basically rewriting law after it had already been passed! This is undermining the authority of the authors of the bill and the power that we have given our ELECTED representatives.

  6. Loretta

    You need to read the law first. The law in Texas does not include a list of ingredients and in fact as the lege here meets every other year, we could not be “up in arms” over it as session ended in May 2011 that bill has passed. The issue we are fighting is a State agency over stepping its power and circumventing clear legislative intent by requiring not just a list of ingredients, but a whole other complex and unnecesarry array of labelling requirements. Misinformation is dangerous, it hurts our cause and you are misrepresenting what our issue with the PROPOSED (it’s not adopted yet) labelling requirement is. Not to mention why we oppose it.

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