A couple of months ago, Michigan voted the Cottage Food Law into effect, giving entrepreneurs a chance to make some money from their own homes, without the hassle and expense of finding a commercial kitchen to rent or certifying their own. The Michigan Cottage Food Law is a groundbreaking advancement for people interested in starting a food-based business from their own home.
If you’re talented in the kitchen and looking to start a small business and make some extra money, here’s what you need to know about the Michigan Cottage Food Law:
What Does the Michigan Cottage Food Law Mean for Me?
The Michigan Cottage Food Law gives you the right manufacture certain types of foods in your own home and sell them in certain venues. If that seems sort of vague, it is: as with any food-based law, there are rules and regulations that you need to follow. Provided you know the specifics of the law, you can sell things like breads, jellies, cookies, popcorn and more at places like bake sales, farmers markets and roadside stands, or other places where you are selling directly to a consumer.
What Kinds of “Cottage Foods” Can I Sell?
You can sell non-potentially hazardous foods. The law states that a food is non-potentially hazardous if it doesn’t require time or temperature control to be safely eaten. Here’s a partial list of some foods considered to be non-potentially hazardous:
Bread, cakes, cookies and other baked goods
Fruit pies that don’t need to be refrigerated
Jam or jelly that’s stored in a glass jar at room temperature
Chocolate-covered pretzels, fruits and other treats
Dried herbs and herb mixes
What Kind of Foods CAN’T I Sell?
Michigan lawmakers likely wanted to be sure that they wouldn’t be faced with food contamination issues after passing this law, so they’ve restricted potentially hazardous foods like the following from the Michigan Cottage Food Law:
Meat (fresh, dried or canned)
Canned fruits and veggies
Pies that need refrigeration
Dairy products like milk, cheese and butter
Condiments like mayo, mustard and barbecue sauce
Pet treats (these are covered under a separate law, that can be found here)
Where Can I Sell My Cottage Foods?
The Michigan Cottage Food Law says that you can only sell directly to a consumer, so this rules out online market venues like Ebay and Etsy, or your neighborhood grocery stores or restaurants. You can, however, sell at farm stands, road stands and farmers’ markets.
Do I have to Label my Cottage Foods?
Yes! This is another crucial point to the Michigan Cottage Food Law. Your potential customers need to know that your foods were not made in a commercial kitchen, and they also need to know what ingredients are in it. If you’re selling your grandma’s famous cookies at your local farmers’ market, don’t worry – you don’t have to write the secret recipe on the label, but you do need to put down every ingredient in those cookies in case someone’s allergic.
Your label is important and needs to have the following five pieces of information:
1. A disclaimer statement that let’s your customer know your food was made in a home kitchen.
2. The name of your product.
3. Your name and address.
4. The ingredients in your product, listed by weight.
5. Any possible allergens in your food, like wheat, eggs, soy, milk or nuts.
6. The total weight of your product.
Sound like a lot? It really isn’t too bad. Here’s an example of what your food label might look like:
MADE IN A HOME KITCHEN:
This product was made in a home kitchen that was not inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Betty’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
123 Sesame Street
Cookie City, MI 12345
Ingredients: Flour, eggs, butter, chocolate chips (list all chocolate chip sub-ingredients here), walnuts, sugar and salt.
Contains: Wheat, milk, eggs, soy, walnuts
Net Wt. 5 oz.
You also have to remember to be specific. If you have nuts in your cookies, list what kind. You don’t want someone having an allergic reaction because of an unclear label. Also, your home kitchen disclaimer can’t be itty-bitty: it has to be at least an 11-point font.
Can I Become a Millionaire with the Cottage Food Law?
No. Your household is limited to $15,000 in gross sales annually. Don’t let this deter you, though, because not only is $15,000 not an amount to sneeze at, but you can use the Michigan Cottage Food Law to get your start. Say you sell out your $15,000 limit within a couple of months of starting up your home-based cake baking business. That, to me, would be a good indication that it’s time to go get a loan and access to a commercial kitchen, and kick your business into high gear.
Where Can I Learn More?
If you’re ready to start your own cottage food business, don’t take the information in this article and run with it without getting the whole story straight from the horse’s mouth. The actual Michigan Cottage Food Law is only four pages, and for a government document, I found it pretty user friendly and easy to undersand.
Go here to see the law in full: http://michigan.gov/documents/mda/MDA-CFFAQ-MASTER_327558_7.pdf.
The Michigan Cottage Food Law gives people that live in a state facing high unemployment rates and ongoing economic troubles a chance to start a food-based business without the high cost of renting or establishing a commercial kitchen. So, if you’re a Michigan resident who wants to try a food-based business but doesn’t have much start-up capital, embrace your inner entrepreneur and read up on the new Michigan Cottage Food Law.