The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) regulates provincially licensed meat plants under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 and O. Reg. 31/05.

There are two types of meat plants in Ontario that must be provincially licensed to operate in the province: slaughter plants (abattoirs) and freestanding meat plants (FSMPs or further processing facilities).

Slaughter plants conduct food animal slaughter activities and may or may not conduct further processing activities. All abattoirs that are not federally licensed need to be provincially licensed under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001.

FSMPs do not slaughter animals. They conduct further processing activities  such as aging, boning, cutting, smoking, fermenting, etc. Whether a FSMP comes under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 depends on the meat processing activities conducted, the meat products produced and the distribution of products.

Exemptions from provincial licensing

A provincial licence is not required for businesses that:

  • are restaurants, caterers, or facilities where the majority of the business conducted is food service (such as  preparing and serving meals)
  • prepare only sandwiches, pizzas, bouillon, edible oil or fat, products containing less than 25% meat
  • perform lower risk activities and the sales to other businesses are either no greater than 25% of their meat product sales or no greater than 20,000 kg of meat annually

These activities are covered under public health inspections.

Meat regulation

Regulation 31/05 (Meat) under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 (the Act) 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 that all meat is processed under sanitary conditions.

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

The provincial meat inspection program

Through the application of the Meat Inspection Program, OMAFRA's Food Safety Inspection Delivery Branch ensures that provincially licensed meat plants comply with legislated standards for the slaughter and production of safe meat products.

Skilled and knowledgeable food safety inspectors perform inspection services at provincially licensed meat plants as regulated under the Act.

In slaughter plants, food safety inspectors conduct inspections and must be on site anytime slaughter activities are conducted. Inspectors verify pre-operational conditions of the facility every day slaughter occurs and inspect each animal before slaughter and each carcass after.

Freestanding meat plants (FSMPs) are categorized by the processes they conduct and to whom their products are distributed. Category one FSMPs conduct lower-risk activities such as cutting, slicing, boning, marinating meat products and sell products wholesale. Category two FSMPs conduct higher-risk activities such as canning, curing, smoking, and making ready-to-eat meat products.

The Meat Inspection Program uses a risk-based delivery model to establish inspection schedules in FSMPs. The frequency of inspection is determined according to a plant’s risk level. Generally, a plant’s level of risk is determined by the processing activities/products processed at the plant, compliance history and the plant’s ability to mitigate food safety risks. Plants that are high risk are inspected at a higher frequency than low or medium risk plants. Additional inspections may be conducted when food safety risks are identified.

In both slaughter plants and FSMPs, food safety inspectors:

  • monitor employee hygiene practices, operational standards and potential hazards and take actions to minimize food safety risks
  • review and verify adherence to written programs, plant process controls and records at each plant
  • collect samples for drug or microbial testing
  • follow up on corrective actions required as a result of observed deficiencies during an inspection or audit

In addition, each meat plant is regularly audited to ensure that they meet minimum requirements for provincial licensing.

Provincial vs. federal slaughter plants

All meat intended for sale or distribution in Ontario must come from inspected sources.

The difference between federal and provincial inspection levels is one of scale and scope. Provincially licensed abattoirs can sell meat only within Ontario's borders. Only facilities that are federally licensed can export meat to other provinces and countries.

Provincially inspected plants tend to be smaller and often service local areas or specialty markets. Federally inspected facilities tend to be larger than provincially inspected plants, are designed for higher volumes and must meet international and inter-provincial trade requirements.

Both the provincial and federal meat inspection systems are solidly founded in the commitment to food safety. Each system has strict food safety control measures in place, including, among other things, procedures for sanitation, production practices and record keeping. The Ontario meat inspection legislation and system are designed and delivered to provide the same food safety outcomes as the federal legislation and system.

Licensed meat plants in Ontario

Find a list of all provincially licensed meat plants in Ontario.

All federally licensed establishments are listed on the Safe Food for Canadians Licence Registry.

Contact us

Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca