Ground Meat Standards

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Retailers are responsible for ensuring that the ground meats that they offer for sale are packaged and labelled in accordance with Canadian legislative requirements. Additionally, such products must not be labelled, advertised, packaged or sold in any false or misleading manner.

The Food and Drugs Act in conjunction with the Meat Inspection Act prescribes the following common names and standards for ground meat. In this respect, it is imperative that a product labelled with a given common name contain only that which is allowed by the corresponding standard:
Common NameStandard
Extra Lean Ground [naming the species]* shall be boneless, skinless meat of the species indicated that has been ground and shall not contain more than 10% fat
Lean Ground [naming the species]* shall be boneless, skinless meat of the species indicated that has been ground and shall not contain more than 17% fat
Medium Ground [naming the species]* shall be boneless, skinless meat of the species indicated that has been ground and shall not contain more than 23% fat
Regular Ground [naming the species]* shall be boneless, skinless meat of the species indicated that has been ground and shall not contain more than 30% fat

† Annex 1, Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990
* [Naming the species] = beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.

It should be noted that the standards provided above do not allow for the addition of:

  1. any species other than the species named (e.g. ground pork is not permitted to be added to a product labelled as "lean ground beef");
  2. mechanically separated meat;
  3. any preservative (e.g. sulphites, sodium erythorbate, ascorbic acid, etc.);
  4. any other ingredient or additive (e.g. fillers, seasonings, phosphates, etc.)

Ground meat products that contain fat beyond permitted levels or contain non-permitted substances as described above are in violation of section 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act in that these products are being labelled, packaged, advertised or sold in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive. Such violations when encountered at retail are subject to investigation and enforcement action by Retail Food Officers of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Other Ground Meat Considerations:

Previously Frozen

When meat (including ground meat) that has been frozen is thawed prior to sale, the words "previously frozen" must be declared next to the common name, on the principal display panel or on a sign adjacent to the meat.

When part of a ground meat has been frozen and thawed prior to sale, the words "Made from fresh and frozen portions" or "Made from fresh and frozen (naming the food)" must be declared in the same manner as described for "previously frozen" above.

Additional information - Previously Frozen Meat, Poultry, or Fish

Nutrition Information

Ground meat, ground meat by-product, ground poultry meat or ground poultry meat by-product are always required to display a Nutrition Facts table. Ground meats packaged at the plant level must follow the requirements set out in section B.01.401 and B.01.454 in the Food and Drug Regulations.

If a pre-packaged ground meat is sold only in the retail establishment where the product is packaged, and is labelled by means of a sticker and has an available display surface of 200 cm2 or more, its nutrition facts table shall be set out in a version that is listed in column 1 of items 1 to 3 of parts 1 to 3 of the table to section B.01.454 without any regard to any condition set out in column 2. Smaller packages may use the format hierarchy set out in section B.01.454(3) of the Food and Drug Regulations.

Additional information - Nutritional Labelling

Durable Life Dating

Because ground meat would have a durable life of 90 days or less, fresh or previously frozen ground meat must be labelled with a "packaged on" date and the durable life of the food. The durable life may optionally appear on a poster next to the food. Alternatively, no objection is currently being taken to the application of a "best before" date with proper storage instructions (if the food requires storage conditions that differ from normal room temperature).

It should be noted that foods which bear a "packaged on" date and are repackaged by a retailer must employ the original packaging date which was applied when the product was first packed or weighed.

Additional information - Date Labelling on Pre-packaged Foods

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