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USDA Says It Never Wanted to Cancel New Mexico Matanza

A day after the 12th annual Matanza in Belen, New Mexico was put back on track, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a statement to clarify that it never wanted to see the popular regional cultural event canceled.   

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The Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce cancelled the 2012 Matanza on Dec. 26 after being told it could only serve pork from a USDA-certified facility if it charged admission to the community pig roast.  

“USDA had no intention of shutting down the Matanza,” according to the statement from the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “Unfortunately, as a result of miscommunication, event organizers decided to cancel the event without contacting us despite several phone conversations between USDA and the VCHCC before their decision was made.  

“We are pleased that we were able to further clarify our intentions and are delighted that this year’s Matanza celebration can move forward.  We are confident that as a result of our interaction, VCHCC will take extra measures to ensure that the food is handled and prepared safely.”

FSIS Administrator Alfred Almanza got the Hispano chamber to resume work on the 2012 Matanza after giving them assurances the event would not be subject to USDA enforcement action.   

Originally scheduled for Jan. 28 at the Belen fairgrounds, the event may get a new date and location.  Pigs are butchered and roasted on site at Matanzas, community celebrations dating back to the days when Spaniards ruled the Southwest.

© Food Safety News
  • Rosa

    Matanzas is a cultural tradition that need to comply with Food Safety Regulations. On my job I see everyday people hiding behind the traditios to no comply with food regulations. The traditions which I respect need to be hand to hand with food safety ; no nobody will want that in this activities people gets sick or die for improper handling of the food. I think time has change from the time this traditions started and the people responsible to keep them alive for future generation need to come to a happy medium with what is tradition and food safety .

  • Ariel

    I’m sorry, but I don’t get it–what concern is it to the USDA whether or not the Matanza organizers charged admission or not? “it (Matanza) could only serve pork from a USDA-certified facility if it charged admission to the community pig roast.” Why? And again, what has admission got to do with the USDA? Someone please explain this, otherwise it sounds….rather intrusive, and inappropriately so.

  • mrothschild

    Ariel: Very generally, USDA regulation for meat inspection requires that all meat offered for sale must originate from a federally inspected slaughter facility. There are some relatively complex exemptions to this federal rule, and states also have their own rules specific to meat processing.
    Health departments typically become involved in checking out food safety issues whenever an event is considered public, which can mean there is a cost to attend, but also whether there has been any advertisement or other inducement to attend.
    In this case, the primary issue with the regional USDA regulators appears to have been whether the $10 admission fee was for the food or to participate in a cultural event, and whether the matanza met the criteria to operate under Federal Meat Custom Exemption regulations, which allow for the slaughter, under certain conditions, of animals by someone other than a USDA-certified butcher.
    Al Almanza, administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, apparently agreed with you that the regional regulators’ interpretation of the rules, or the matanza organizers’ interpretation of the USDA’s concerns, were the result of a misunderstanding, and that’s why he clarified that the event could proceed as it has for the past 11 years, with on-site pig slaughter.

  • Mary Rothschild

    Ariel: Very generally, USDA regulation for meat inspection requires that all meat offered for sale must originate from a federally inspected slaughter facility. There are some relatively complex exemptions to this federal rule, and states also have their own rules specific to meat processing.
    Health departments typically become involved in checking out food safety issues whenever an event is considered public, which can mean there is a cost to attend, but also whether there has been any advertisement or other inducement to attend.
    In this case, the primary issue with the regional USDA regulators appears to have been whether the $10 admission fee was for the food or to participate in a cultural event, and whether the matanza met the criteria to operate under Federal Meat Custom Exemption regulations, which allow for the slaughter, under certain conditions, of animals by someone other than a USDA-certified butcher.
    Al Almanza, administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, apparently agreed with you that the regional regulators’ interpretation of the rules, or the matanza organizers’ interpretation of the USDA’s concerns, were the result of a misunderstanding, and that’s why he clarified that the event could proceed as it has for the past 11 years, with on-site pig slaughter.

  • robert

    I understand the issues but why did the local USDA never inform their supervisors of the issues. It is my understanding that the discussions started in November but USDA in Washington was not aware until last week.It seems the miscommunication was between USDA officials.

  • Consumer

    I believe the wording of USDA’s requirements were phrased a bit awkwardly. What USDA was saying, I believe, was that if admission was charged to this event, then only USDA-inspected meat could be served. It is the USDA’s responsibility to inspect and regulate meat produced for inter-state commerce and wholesale or institutional use. Therefore, if the organizers were going to charge admission to eat this meat product it would fall under USDA regulatory authority. The way it is written in the article appears to say that the organizers could not serve USDA-inspected meat unless they charged admission and I am fairly certain that this is not what was intended.

  • Mary DeForest

    I’m going to the Matanza-the food handlers have training and are certified. This meat isn’t “INTERSTATE”, where the FDA has jurisdiction.
    I’ve been watching where the FDA has been closing down charity events and projects across the United States. A millionaire was prosecuted for donating money to help a rescue shelter. The shelter took in Chimps, at the request of the FDA. He was charged with interfering with an investigation, by donating money to improve the facility.