Accurate Labelling of Lamb
Meat Inspection Program
Food Inspection Branch
Infosheet - November 2014 - PDF
Accurate Labelling Cultivates Customer Loyalty
When customers purchase Ontario lamb, they expect a product of
the highest quality, and they look for certain tenderness and flavour
attributes. If the product meets their expectations and they feel
they are getting value for their money, they will come back for
Occasionally we hear of mutton being mislabelled as lamb. When
this happens, it can turn customers away from the business in question
and harm the reputation of Ontario's lamb industry.
Provincially-licensed meat plants need to clearly identify mutton
as mutton and lamb as lamb. Businesses from processing through transportation
to retail need to ensure lamb and mutton are clearly and accurately
identified and labelled at all times.
Food Label Requirements
To ensure consumers have reliable and trustworthy information,
there are regulatory requirements for food labels. Provincially
licensed meat plant operators are responsible for making sure their
labels and advertising is accurate, truthful, and not misleading
or deceptive. These requirements are found in Section 12 of Regulation
266/09 Livestock and Poultry Carcasses - Grades and Sales under
the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001.
Determining Age of Sheep
To accurately label lamb and mutton, operators need to identify
and maintain the age of sheep throughout processing, through to
sale of meat products.
There are two methods that can be used to determine the age of
- In the live animal, age is determined by looking at dentition
- In the carcass, age is determined by the presence or absence
of a spool or break joint. The break joint is a cartilaginous
area of the cannon bone that is not ossified (bony). This joint
ossifies with age to become what is called a spool joint.
Table 1. Maturity Characteristics of Lamb and Mutton
||Fewer than 2
||2 or more
||2 break joints or, in the case of a carcass with 1 break
joint and one spool joint, the break joint has 4 intact
and well-defined ridges with at least a slightly red and
slightly damp surface.
||2 spool joints or, in the case of a carcass with 1 break
joint and one spool joint, the break joint has a dry and
mainly white surface.
||Ribs that are no more than slightly wide, tend to be rounded
rather than flat and are reddish in colour.
||Ribs that are wide, flat and white.
(Summary of SOR/92-541 - Livestock and Poultry Carcass Grading
Regulations - Part V Grading of Ovine Caracasses, Schedules
I and II)
Labels that are inaccurate may be considered a violation of
Ontario Regulation 266/09 Livestock and Poultry Carcasses -
Grades and Sales under the Food Safety and Quality Act,
Penalties for an individual convicted of a provincial offence
under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 and its
regulations may include: a fine of up to $25,000 for a first
conviction and up to $50,000 for each subsequent conviction
(for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or
continues); imprisonment for up to two years; or both a fine
and imprisonment as stated in section 46 of the act. Corporations
are subject to $100,000 per day ($200,000 on subsequent conviction).
Sheep Labelling Resources:
- Regulation 266/09 Livestock and Poultry Carcasses - Grades and
- Livestock and Poultry Carcass Grading Regulations (Canada):