Your Responsibilities Under The Meat Regulation

What you should know if you raise, deal, handle or purchase livestock or poultry for slaughter

To help ensure a safe meat supply for consumers and to reduce the potential for food-borne illnesses, all meat offered for sale or distributed in Ontario must be inspected. The sale or distribution of uninspected meat is illegal.

Whether you are a commercial livestock producer, operate a small hobby farm, or buy and sell animals for slaughter, the meat from your livestock and poultry is subject to the same requirements under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 and Regulation 31/05 (Meat Regulation).

The following information is provided for your protection, to help you understand your responsibilities and legal obligations as a producer or dealer of meat intended for sale or distribution.

What is the Meat Regulation?

Regulation 31/05 (Meat) under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 is administered by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Its purpose is to help ensure that meat processed for consumption in Ontario meets food safety requirements. The regulation sets out requirements to ensure that animals are fit for slaughter, handled humanely and processed under sanitary conditions. All species of mammals and birds, raised in captivity and whose meat is intended for human consumption, are included in the regulation.

Under the regulation, all meat destined for sale or distribution, without exception, must originate from livestock or poultry slaughtered in provincially licensed or federally registered establishments, or imported from a federally recognized source.

In Ontario, no one can sell, transport, deliver or distribute meat unless:

  • The animal was inspected prior to slaughter (ante mortem), approval for slaughter in accordance with the Meat Regulation, and the carcass was inspected following slaughter (post mortem) and was approved for use as food in accordance with the Meat Regulation or the regulations under the Meat Inspection Act (Canada);
  • The animal was slaughtered in a plant operated by a provincially licensed operator or a federally registered establishment; and
  • The meat is stamped, labelled or tagged with an inspection legend.

In addition, no person can operate a slaughter facility without a licence.

What are my responsibilities under the Meat Regulation?

As a livestock or poultry producer or dealer in Ontario, you must ensure that your animals are slaughtered according to requirements under Regulation 31/05. If you intend to sell or distribute meat for human consumption, you have the legal obligation to ensure that your animals are slaughtered in a provincially licensed slaughter plant or federally registered establishment (websites are provided below to help you find a slaughter plant in your area).

Where do these requirements apply?

It is illegal to transport, deliver, sell or distribute uninspected meat anywhere in Ontario. All geographical areas of Ontario are covered in this requirement, without exception.

It is illegal to transport uninspected meat for any reason, including further processing, cutting and wrapping, distribution or sale.

How does the provincial meat inspection program work?

Through the application of the meat inspection program, OMAFRA's Food Inspection Branch ensures that provincially licensed slaughter plants comply with legislated standards for the production of safe meat products.

Skilled and knowledgeable meat inspectors, with veterinary support, are present in each slaughter plant, each day of slaughter, to inspect all animals and poultry intended for slaughter. Medium and large freestanding meat processing plants (meat plants that do not conduct slaughter activities) are usually inspected at a minimum once a month.

The meat inspection program monitors animal health, meat safety, the treatment of animals, proper handling of meat products, sanitation programs and water safety at Ontario's licensed plants.

In addition, each plant is audited annually by expert auditors contracted by the ministry to ensure that they meet minimum requirements for provincial licensing.

What is the difference between provincial and federal slaughter plants?

All meat intended for sale or distribution in Ontario is subjected to full inspection before and after slaughter, whether in provincial slaughter plants or federally registered establishments, and both inspection programs receive full veterinary, laboratory and enforcement support.

The difference between federal and provincial inspection levels is one of scale and scope. While provincially licensed slaughter plants serve local livestock producers and can sell only within Ontario borders, currently only federally inspected establishments can sell across Canada and anywhere else in the world. Federally inspected plants tend to be much larger than provincially inspected plants.

What is "emergency slaughter"?

The Meat Regulation allows for the emergency slaughter of food animals outside of a slaughter plant in certain circumstances.

Emergency slaughter may only be performed where authorized by a regional veterinarian appointed by OMAFRA. A regional veterinarian can only approve emergency slaughter where it is necessary because an animal has escaped confinement, is injured and cannot be transported without undue suffering or distress, or cannot be transported without endangering the animal or persons.

An animal must undergo an ante mortem inspection by an OMAFRA appointed inspector or veterinary inspector before the animal can be approved for emergency slaughter and a meat plant approved by the regional veterinarian must be willing to accept the carcass for processing. Emergency slaughter must be performed in accordance with the regulations and the carcass must be transported to the approved meat plant within a specified time. Post mortem inspection must be completed by an OMAFRA appointed inspector or veterinary inspector within the time set by the regional veterinarian following slaughter. Provided all of these requirements are met and the carcass of the animal passes post mortem inspection, the carcass may be approved for processing and sale or distribution to the public.

Farmers who have an animal that appears to meet the criteria for emergency slaughter outside of a meat plant can contact a licensed meat plant operator to initiate the process. It should be noted that, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act administered by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the presence of any uninspected meat in a food premises such as butcher shop or other food processing facility is prohibited.

Can I slaughter my own animals to feed my family?

Yes, provided you comply with one of the following options

Option 1

Producers can slaughter animals and process the carcasses on the farm at any time of the year and are exempt from the Meat Regulations, provided all the following conditions are met:

  • The animals must be slaughtered for consumption by the producer or the producer's immediate family only,
  • The slaughter must be performed on the producer's premises by the producer, a person acting on the direction of the producer or a certified examiner; and;
  • The meat must be consumed only by the producer or the producer's immediate family on the producer's premises.

The meat from an animal slaughtered under this option cannot be sold, delivered, distributed, or transported off the farm under any circumstances.

Am I allowed to hire a butcher to come to my farm and do the cutting and wrapping on site for me?

A producer exempt from the Meat Regulations, who meets all criteria described above, is not prohibited from hiring the services of a butcher to conduct cutting and wrapping activities on the farm where the animal was slaughtered. The meat cannot be sold, delivered, distributed, or transported off the farm under any circumstance.

Option 2

Cattle and swine producers who want to slaughter healthy animals on their farm and have the carcasses processed off the farm may engage in the Non-Emergency slaughter provisions in O. Reg 31/05 under the Food Safety and Quality Act 2001, provided the following conditions are met:

  • Only cattle under 30 months of age (UTM) and pigs are eligible to enter a meat plant under this provision;
  • An examiner certified for non-emergency, on-farm slaughter may provide stunning, slaughter and dressing services and must perform ante mortem and post mortem examinations;
  • Carcasses and products can only be transported to and from a provincially licenced meat plant;
  • Provincially licenced meat plants must be approved to process on-farm slaughtered carcasses and are only allowed to accept them for periods of time specified in the approval that fall between September 1 of any given year and April 30 of the following year;
  • Processing of products are limited by the regulation, to cutting, grinding, wrapping and/or freezing of beef or pork, and processing ham, bacon or sausage from pork only.
  • The products can only be consumed by the producer and their immediate family on the premises where the animal was slaughtered; and
  • Products cannot be sold, shared, donated or distributed.

For more information on the Non-Emergency Slaughter provisions visit: Non Emergency Slaughter.

Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act administered by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the presence of any uninspected meat in a food premises such as a butcher shop or other food processing facility is prohibited unless otherwise specified in the Act.

Do requirements under the Meat Regulation apply to hunted game?

The Meat Regulation allows for and establishes standards for the hygienic processing of hunted game carcasses and products in provincially licensed meat plants. These plants require approval from an OMAFRA director.

All hunted game carcasses or products processed in a provincially licensed meat plant must be returned to the owner for consumption. They cannot be sold to the public.

Where can I find a licensed slaughter plant?

A list of provincially licensed slaughter plants is posted on OMAFRA's website at: Provincially Licensed Meat Plants.

All federally registered establishments are listed at: List of Federally Registered Meat Establishments and their Licensed Operators.

If a slaughter plant cannot be found on either list, it is probably not licensed to slaughter in Ontario.

What should I do if I become aware of illegal slaughter activity?

The Ontario government does not tolerate illegal slaughter. Government and partner organizations work jointly to uncover illegal slaughter operations and prosecute their operators.

If you have any information regarding meat processing activities you think may be illegal or may compromise food safety and public health, please call OMAFRA's 24-hour, toll-free Meat Inspection Hotline:

1-888-466-2372, ext. 519-826-4230

You may also call Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

A team of expert investigators and compliance officers investigates tips and complaints regarding illegal slaughter. You will not be asked to provide your name or any other personal information.

What are the penalties for offences?

A person who breaks the law covering meat inspection is guilty of a serious offence. On conviction, the offender is liable for a first offence to a maximum fine of $25,000 for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues; (or $50,000 for a subsequent offence for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues) or to imprisonment for a term of up to two years, or to both fine and imprisonment.

Where can I find more information?

For access to the complete act and regulations, please refer to the Ontario Statutes and Regulations website. For more information about Ontario's meat inspection program, visit OMAFRA's website.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300