The Unique Law That's Helping Home Chefs Disrupt The Food Industry

A good number of successful food ventures have had humble beginnings. For example, HuffPost says that Taco Bell started out as a single hot dog-selling food cart, and the Stouffer's brand began as essentially a concession stand inside an arcade. While those brands went big, not all food business owners have such grand ambitions.

Local and state laws allow people to operate a number of businesses out of their homes across the United States. According to The Work at Home Wife, these include laundry services, tutoring, and housekeeping services. While there is some paperwork necessary for tax purposes, as Nerd Wallet explains, there are benefits to having your own business, like flexibility in hours and the appeal of being your own boss. Now, a new category of laws is allowing food entrepreneurs to carve out success for themselves straight from their own kitchens, and more and more jurisdictions in the U.S. are allowing people to take advantage of these benefits.

Cottage food laws are on the rise

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, cottage food laws have become more widely enacted across the United States. According to The Takeout, these ordinances allow entrepreneurs to sell certain foods from home without a lot of the same licensing or health inspection rules factories or restaurants must deal with.

While the idea behind cottage food laws is the same across the country, the exact details of the statutes can vary from one place to the next. For example, Forrager says that New York bars cottage food businesses from selling perishable baked goods. According to the University of Illinois, however, Illinois has no such restriction. 

While the licensing restrictions aren't as stringent for cottage food businesses as they are for larger establishments, that doesn't mean there aren't any legal standards. One Baker's Journey declares that in Oregon, for instance, the law requires each person who wants to take part in the preparation of food sold under the cottage food statute to acquire a food handlers card from the state. Additionally, Food Truck Empire talks about how some jurisdictions have caps on the amount of money you can make under the designation.

People taking advantage of these laws, both as buyers and sellers, has opened up a new channel for food distribution that represents an alternative to mass production and traditional restaurants. In places where such laws exist, you can get food that is homemade even though it wasn't made in your home.