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What is Cottage Food? 

If you're wondering how to make money selling food from home, you may have run across the term cottage food. But what is cottage food? The short answer is that it's a term to describe the type of food home-based food businesses can sell. Additionally, individual state laws govern the cottage food industry. Consequently, the rules and list of cottage foods can differ depending on where you live and do business.

Maybe you wonder if there's a way to get around cottage food laws. There might be, but consider that the rules are in place to keep your products safe and your customers healthy. If you want to run a cottage food business, it's in your best interest to find out how to do it right.

You can use this short guide to get started.

What is Cottage Food Law?

Cottage food laws apply to individuals and home-based businesses, including farms. While specific laws vary from state to state, in general, potentially hazardous foods are restricted. These are foods that require time and temperature control to ensure they're safe to eat.

Some typically restricted foods include:

Most states have labeling requirements. Individual states are also likely to require registration, food permits, and business licensing. What's more, states may limit the sales of cottage foods to farmers' markets, bake sales, and charity events.

Many states have a cap on annual sales a cottage food business can earn, as well. And, cottage food businesses can have a website, depending on the state. Keep in mind that cottage food laws by state can differ; therefore, it's typically not legal to sell cottage food products across state lines. However, a website is an excellent marketing tool for almost every business.

Castiron is a cottage food business platform that provides a free website and a place to manage and market your home-based food business.

Cottage Food Laws by State

According to the Institute for Justice, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have cottage food laws, allowing residents to sell non-potentially hazardous foods directly to consumers. Not only that, but 25 states and Washington, D.C. have either created or significantly expanded their existing cottage food laws since 2015. And, 38 states, plus Washington, D.C., allow home-based food businesses to sell online within state limits.

Equally important, today, several states, including Wyoming, Utah, and North Dakota, have enacted food freedom laws. These laws allow residents to sell homemade foods, including pickled, canned, and refrigerated products, without a license, permit, or inspection requirements.

On the other hand, Texas cottage food law allows home chefs to sell non-potentially hazardous foods without a food manufacturing license. However, you do need to complete a food handler preparation course and earn a Texas cottage food law certificate. Notably, recent cottage food law updates in Texas allow home-based food producers to sell online or by mail order as long as they deliver or provide in-person customer pick-up. Also, Texas cottage food law allows an annual income not to exceed $50,000.

Likewise, Michigan cottage food law allows home-based food producers to sell products at venues, including farmers' markets, fundraisers, and pop-up selling events. They can also sell at roadside stands and take orders as long as they deliver directly to customers or provide customer pick-up at their homes. But they can't sell online, and cottage food producers in Michigan have an annual salary cap of $25,000.

What Food Products Meet Cottage Food Requirements?

Non-potentially hazardous foods that don't require time and/or temperature control to assure food safety are typically on the list of cottage foods. Some of these items include:

States that require labeling generally want to ensure consumers know that the food products are homemade and where the producers make and package the items. Some standard labeling guidelines include:

Additionally, cottage food operators can use sample labels and templates to ensure they meet specific state requirements.

Learn More About the Cottage Food Business

Do you want to find out more about running a cottage food business? At Castiron, we work with homemade food producers to help them make the most of their business. Read our blog for helpful tips and tricks. Join our community. Or, get started with your free cottage food website today.

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