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Method of production claims on food labels
Method of production claims for meat, poultry and fish products

Claims about how meat, poultry and fish were raised or fed are voluntary. However, when used on a food label or advertisement, the guidance outlined below is intended to assist with industry compliance and consumer protection.

Natural claims

Meat, poultry and fish products may bear the claim "natural" if they use the same criteria as all foods. Refer to Nature, natural for more information on the criteria for making a natural claim.

Given that the definition of "natural" is not based on raising practices, the claim "naturally raised" may be used as long as further explanation of what is meant by the claim appears along with the claim on the label, to avoid misleading the consumers.

Other, more specific claims that convey information on the methods used to raise a particular animal may be used, as long as they are truthful and not misleading.

Feed claims

The following criteria support several different feed claims and their variations.

  1. "Fed no" or "raised without" and

    • animal products,
    • animal by-products,
    • animal fat,
    • animal meal, and/or
    • bone meal.

    The above claims may only appear on meat, poultry, or fish products that were raised on feed that is free of ingredients or components of ingredients of animal origin (including animal products (definition) and animal by-products (definition)). This criteria applies to:

    • non-nutritive feed additives
    • supplemental sources of minerals and vitamins that contain animal products, such as
      • vitamins and minerals which are encapsulated in gelatin of animal origin
      • vitamin D3 derived from the lanolin of sheep wool

    Each of these claims may be used provided they are accurate, truthful and not misleading. For example, a meat product labelled "fed no bone meal" may be acceptable when the animal feed is free of all ingredients or components of animal origin.

    An exception to the above is that for ruminants, until a legally approved non-animal source of vitamin D3 is available in Canada for use in feed, a meat product of these species fed vitamin D3 derived from lanolin of sheep's wool may bear these claims (e.g. "Fed no animal by-products"), as long as a statement is added to inform the consumer of the source of vitamin D3.

    Some animal feed is manufactured with bakery and snack food waste that contains animal products as well as animal by-products. If this type of feed is used, the resulting meat products may not be labelled or advertised with these claims.

    The milk fed to an animal is not taken into consideration when evaluating these claims for the absence of animal products and animal by-products in the animal's diet.

  2. "Grain fed"

    This claim may be used when a minimum percentage of the feed is made up of grains (definition) and grain by-products calculated over the animal's entire life cycle. The minimum percentages of grain content are as follows:

    • feed for beef and other sources of red meat: 75%
    • feed for turkey: 80%
    • feed for chicken: 85%

    The remaining portion of the feed may contain other feed ingredients, regardless of origin. Examples include

    • minerals
    • vitamins
    • antioxidants (for preservation)
    • fish meal (as a source of omega-3 or omega-6)
    • enzyme supplements
    • pellet binders
    • anti-caking agents (to help with milling and pelleting)
    • flavouring agents
    • medications
    • other non-nutritive feed additives

    Note that the species-specific percentages are based on attainable levels of grain in feed. Because of nutritional needs, most animals are not fed diets made only of grains. Other ingredients are an important part of the feed, required to make it nutritionally balanced.

  3. "Grain fed" and

    • no animal products
    • no animal by-products
    • no animal fat
    • no animal meal, and/or
    • no bone meal

    These claims are a combination of the criteria for the claims in sections A) and B), mentioned above.

    For example, "grain fed, no animal meal" or "grain fed, no bone meal or animal fat" may be acceptable if the feed:

    • uses the criteria for "grain fed" (section B), and
    • is free of ingredients or components of ingredients of animal origin (section A).

    Note the exception made for ruminants meat products that may bear claims referred to in section A, as long as the clarifying statement is added.

    Please refer to sections A) and B) for complete details.

"Raised without the use of antibiotics" claims

To display the claim "raised without the use of antibiotics," in relation to a meat, poultry or fish product, the animal may not have been treated with antibiotics (definition), administered by any method, from birth to slaughter or harvest.

This includes administration through:

  • feed
  • water
  • injection
  • local application, or
  • injection to embryos and eggs

In addition, antibiotics may not be given to the lactating mother of the animal in question in any manner that would result in antibiotic residue in the animal.

In the event that antimicrobial agents (definition) are given for the purpose of having an antimicrobial effect, the claim may not be consistent with subsection 5(1) of the FDA and subsection 6(1) of the SFCA.

Meat, poultry and fish products are not considered eligible to make the claim "raised without the use of antibiotics" if the animals were raised with arsenicals or substances that fall into the four categories of antimicrobial drugs listed in Health Canada's antimicrobial categorization document. Examples include:

  • aminoglycosides, such as gentamicin and neomycin
  • beta-lactams including penicillins and cephalosporins, such as amoxicillin and ceftiofur
  • fluoroquinolones, such as enrofloxacin and danoflaxacin
  • ionophoresFootnote 1, such as monensin
  • macrolides, such as tylosin
  • streptogramins, such as virginiamycin
  • sulphonamides
  • tetracyclines

However, meat, poultry and fish products may claim "raised without the use of antibiotics" if the animals were raised with the following veterinary drugs or biological products (the list is not exhaustive):

  • vaccines
  • antisera
  • colostrum
  • chemical coccidiostats, such as amprolium and decoquinate
  • direct-fed microbial products registered with the CFIA as feed ingredients

Additionally, in order for the claim to be used, vitamins and minerals given to the animals may only be given at the level of physiological action for dietary supplement, not for antimicrobial effect.

A claim such as "fed no antibiotics" may imply that the animal was raised without the use of antibiotics in cases where the animal has received antibiotics through injection or spraying. If such a claim is applied, the criteria for the claim "raised without the use of antibiotics" may be used to avoid misleading information.

"Raised without the use of added hormones" claims

Meat, poultry and fish products may carry the claim "raised without the use of added hormones" on the label or advertising as long as no hormones or β-agonists, such as ractopamine, were administered in any way to the animal. In addition, hormones may not be administered to the lactating mother of the animal in question in any manner which would result in increased hormone levels in the animal. However, consumers may not be aware that the use of hormones is only permitted with certain animals.

  • In cases where the use of hormones is legally authorized and none were used, the products may claim "raised without the use of added hormones."
  • In cases where the use of hormones is prohibited or not authorized, the claim "raised without the use of added hormones" may be considered misleading as it creates false uniqueness between similar products. This misleading impression may be avoided by applying an additional statement, such as "like other (naming the product or source animal)".

For example, since the use of hormones is not authorized in Canada for chickens, the use of the claim "raised without the use of added hormones" on chicken products could imply that other chickens may have been raised using hormones. A claim such as "like other chickens, this chicken was raised without the use of added hormones" may be used.

The claim "hormone free" used without any other information could create the impression that the animal product in question does not contain hormones. As meat, poultry and fish products contain naturally occurring hormones, the claim "hormone free" is not considered acceptable.

The claim "no growth stimulants" may also be misleading for consumers and be inconsistent with the relevant legislation on truthful and accurate labelling. Due to a broad and diverse understanding of the term "growth stimulant," the simple statement "no growth stimulants" could mean the absence of a number of substances (such as hormones, β-agonists or low dose of antibiotics) and the presence of others (such as vitamins and minerals).

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