Shoppers are being urged to source their meat from legitimate suppliers after the Ministry for Primary Industries shut down a black market meat operation in the South Waikato.
MPI said the operation involved the processing and sale of sheep, cattle and goats over a number of years.
"The operator is likely to face prosecution. MPI has a low tolerance for any black-market butchery operations," said MPI District Compliance Manager Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Brendon Mikkelse.
He said compliance officers recently executed a search warrant following an inspection at an Atiamuri Farm.
"Officers seized 22 freshly processed sheep that were destined for sale and several thousand dollars associated with the alleged offending."
Mr Mikkelsen saidmembers of the public were urged to source their meat from regulated outlets like butcheries, supermarkets, and other legitimate meat suppliers.
"This is particularly the case in the lead up to Christmas where illegal meat operations are, traditionally, more prevalent.
"Meat being sold directly from a farm to the public is a strong indicator of unlicensed activity.
"Legitimate home kill is the slaughter and butchering of your own farmed animals for your own consumption or use.
"We are appealing to the public to report any suspicious or unlicensed meat suppliers. If we receive information about these kinds of operations we will shut them down and prosecute those involved in making money from selling potentially substandard product.
"There's a very serious public health component to our interest in ensuring people comply with the law. We have a duty to protect the public from the threat of various food-borne illnesses associated with illegal, unregulated meat.
"The fines are substantial for those convicted and offenders can face custodial sentences, including a prison term of up to five years, a fine of up to $100,000, and forfeiture of things used in the commission of the offence as well as illegal proceeds - it's just not worth it."
The public can report any suspicious activity to MPI's Food safety helpline: 0800 00 83 33.
More information is available at: www.foodsafety.govt.nz/elibrary/industry/guide-homekill-managing-risks/index.htm