By law, meat-packers and processors are not allowed to ship beef, pork, lamb and poultry meat without the Agriculture Department's inspection seal.
The prospect of mass furloughs of meat and food inspectors was part of a broader White House warning about the effects of the potential spending cuts on everyday life. Meatpackers said a shut-down would devastate consumers as well as their industry.
President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans still must resolve differences over spending cuts and tax increases, dubbed the "fiscal cliff," which essentially was delayed by both sides from happening on Jan. 1 and was pushed back until March.
"USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service may have to furlough all employees for approximately two weeks," a White House statement said.
An estimated $10 billion in production would be lost during a two-week furlough, said a USDA official, and consumers could see meat shortages and higher prices as a result.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lamented across-the-board spending cuts during a speech to state agriculture directors earlier this week.
"There is not much we can do when Congress says to cut every line item by a certain percent," Vilsack said. He said employee pay accounted for the bulk of spending at the meat safety agency.Meanwhile, vegetarians and vegans would be somewhere celebrating over this.