If you conduct regulated meat processing activities under O. Reg. 31/05 (Meat) the compliance and regulatory framework for a meat plant operator licence may apply to you.

There are 2 types of meat plants that must be licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA):

  • abattoirs (slaughter plants)
  • freestanding meat plants

There are also 2 different categories of freestanding meat plants based on the risk level of their activities:

  • high-risk Category 2 activities
  • low-risk Category 1 activities

Freestanding meat plants conducting high-risk Category 2 activities

Category 2 activities as defined by the meat regulation are:

  • canning, curing, dehydrating, emulsifying, fermenting or smoking of a meat product
  • processing burnt heads or feet of cattle or sheep
  • unfinished green tripe or casings
  • bile or blood products containing salt or other ingredients or reproductive organs from the carcasses of food animals
  • preparing mechanically separated meat
  • receiving, skinning, cutting, wrapping or freezing farm slaughtered carcasses
  • grinding meat from farm slaughtered carcasses
  • processing ham, bacon and sausage from farm slaughtered carcasses that are derived from pigs
  • any other processing activity performed to a carcass, a part of a carcass or a meat product that, in the opinion of a director, presents a medium to high risk of adversely affecting the safety for human consumption of the carcass, the part of the carcass or the meat product

Freestanding meat plants conducting low-risk Category 1 activities

Category 1 activities as defined by the meat regulation are:

  • aging or breaking of a carcass or a part of a carcass
  • aging, boning, comminution, cutting, fabrication, marinating, slicing or tenderizing a meat product
  • packaging a meat product for wholesale or other sale or distribution to persons other than consumers
  • pre-packaging a meat product
  • cooking ready-to-serve meat products for the purpose of immediate consumption
  • any other processing activity performed to a carcass, a part of a carcass or a meat product that, in the opinion of a director, presents a low risk of adversely affecting the safety for human consumption of the carcass, the part of the carcass or the meat product

Licensing exemptions

Some businesses do not require a meat plant licence. Licensing exemptions are set out in O. Reg. 31/05 (Meat). A provincial licence is not required if:

  • a business only prepares:
    • sandwiches that contain meat as a ingredient
    • pizzas that include meat as an ingredient
    • edible oil or fat
    • bouillon
    • any other meat product, if the amount of meat contained in it is 25% or less by weight of the product’s total ingredients
  • a business only performs lower risk activities (Category 1 activities) and sales to wholesale markets do not exceed the greater of either:
    • 25% of meat products sold in a fiscal year
    • 20,000 kg of meat products sold in a fiscal year
  • the majority of the business’ sales are meals or meal portions prepared for immediate consumption on the premises or elsewhere. This means that a restaurant or caterer would not require a provincial licence if more than 50% of their business is preparing meals.

Businesses exempt from licensing are subject to public health inspection under the Food Premises Regulation.

How to get a meat plant operator licence

Step 1: Application

Contact foodsafetylicensing@ontario.ca with information about your plans to operate a meat plant before you complete the application package. Our licencing team will:

  • advise you on the application and licensing process and the supporting documentation required
  • provide you with a meat plant licensing information package
  • work with you to complete a business profile

Meat plant licensing information package

This package includes:

  • Application for a licence to operate a meat plant
  • Business Profile
  • Food Handler Information Sheet
  • Plans and Specifications Information Sheet
  • Provincial Premises Registry Postcard
  • Specified Risk Materials Policy
  • Statement of Compliance Form for use of the Meat Inspection Legend
  • Audit Information Sheet

Provincially licensed meat plant operators must ensure they comply with all regulatory requirements. These include:

The Meat Plant Guidelines can help owners and operators understand:

  • how OMAFRA inspects and audits their meat plants
  • the criteria we use when meat plants are inspected and audited

Submitting your package

Submit the following licence application package to foodsafetylicensing@ontario.ca, including:

  • a completed, signed and dated licence application
  • a completed Business Profile
  • a copy of the Articles of Incorporation (for corporations only)
  • all floor plans and specifications as outlined in the Plans and Specifications Information Sheet
  • processing fee (cheque for $300)

You may contact foodsafetylicensing@ontario.ca for help at any time during the application process. A member of our licensing team or the designated area manager might conduct regular check-ins to help you with outstanding items and plans.

Step 2: Assessment

Technical review

Your floor plans and specification for a new meat plant will undergo a technical review by OMAFRA to determine if your proposed plans appear to meet the minimum requirements.

Our licensing team will:

  • discuss any concerns or deficiencies identified by the technical review
  • provide you with the technical review guidance document summary of findings
  • provide information and guidance regarding any required amendments to your plans and specifications

“Appears to meet” letter

When the licensing team, in consultation with the designated area manager, has verified that all potential issues are addressed, you will receive an “Appears to meet” letter confirming that the proposed meat plant appears to meet the regulatory requirements.

This is not a licence to operate.

We strongly recommended that no construction is started until the letter has been issued. It is your responsibility to ensure that the proposed meat plant complies with other applicable legislation, such as the Ontario Building Code.

Food handling

Before the licensing and operation of the facility, at least one supervisor of food handlers must be certified in a food handler training course approved by the licensing director.

Field inspection

Before receiving your licence to operate, the area manager will perform a pre-licensing field inspection of the facility (with regional veterinarian if relevant) to confirm operational readiness and compliance with the meat regulations.

A member of the licensing team will also order a water test and work with the area manager to order a test kill (for abattoirs only).

Step 3: Obtain licence

A member of the licensing team will send the licence to you when all pre-licensing verification checks are complete and the licence is approved. Your licence can be issued to you by email, delivered by a member of the meat inspection program, or printed and issued through regular post.

A member of the licensing team will also provide you with electronic versions of the Meat Inspection Legend once you have received your licence. The legend will show:

  • your plant number for use on packaging materials and labels where it is required
  • that the product has been provincially inspected

If your licence is denied, you will receive a letter explaining the grounds for refusal. If you wish to appeal the licence refusal you can do so through the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.

Step 4: Operate your plant

In abattoirs, inspectors are assigned to each plant. Inspectors conduct inspections and are on site anytime slaughter activities are conducted.

Processing facilities are routinely inspected by an inspector, based on risk.

While you run your meat plant you must comply with the legislative requirements.

At any point, if discrepancies are found, your area manager will discuss the required actions with you and schedule follow up meetings as required.

Contact us

Our licensing team will provide advisory services to existing and prospective meat plant operators. To discuss licensing requirements, please contact foodsafetylicensing@ontario.ca.

Reporting non-compliance

Report any alleged food safety violations and other illegal activities.