Accurate Labelling of Lamb and Mutton

Meat Inspection Program

Food Inspection Branch

Infosheet - November 2014 - PDF (404KB)

 

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 more.

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 a sheep:

  • In the live animal, age is determined by looking at dentition (teeth).
  • 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

    Characteristics Lamb Mutton
    Permanent Incisors Fewer than 2 2 or more
    Joints 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 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)

    Consequences

    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, 2001.

    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 Sales (Ontario):
    www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_090266_e.htm
  • Livestock and Poultry Carcass Grading Regulations (Canada):
    laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-92-541/index.html

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 08 January 2015
Last Reviewed: 08 January 2015