Overview

Alberta’s meat inspection system is very similar to the federal approach. The Meat Inspection Act and Meat Inspection Regulation requires that all animals are inspected for health before slaughter – usually just before, but at least within 24 hours.

The Alberta government's Meat and Dairy Inspection Section is responsible for regulating red meat and poultry abattoirs, mobile butchers, mobile butcher facilities and on-farm slaughter operations in the province.

The Section is divided into 5 regions: Vermilion, Edmonton, Airdrie, Grande Praire/La Crete and Lethbridge.

Inspectors are dedicated to the safety and security of meat processed in provincially licensed abattoirs. These inspectors work directly with facility operators to ensure:

  • all meat bearing the provincial inspection legend is fit for human consumption
  • facilities comply with food safety regulations
  • animal slaughter is humane

Slaughter inspections

Unhealthy, or even slightly abnormal, animals are identified and depending on the issue either:

  • segregated for separate slaughter and special inspection, or
  • not allowed to enter the human food chain

To make these decisions, inspectors draw on their understanding of meat inspection techniques, food safety risks, good manufacturing practices and applicable legislative requirements.

Humane slaughter is conducted by ensuring that animals are treated respectfully, and are stunned properly prior to slaughter to ensure that they experience no pain or distress.

Every carcass is subject to a thorough post-mortem examination, which includes a thorough examination of the carcass, head, and internal organs, including the lymphatic system. Carcasses, or portions thereof, are condemned if they are deemed unfit for human consumption because of disease or contamination.

Meat inspectors can consult the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian if they require veterinary advice, or if there is any doubt whether a carcass is to be approved for human consumption or condemned. If necessary, a carcass will be held pending consultation or laboratory analysis of a selected specimen(s).

Condemned carcasses are disposed of in accordance with the Disposal of Dead Animals Regulation.

Meat inspectors also collect samples for various provincial and federal surveillance programs and food safety projects such as Brucellosis and Chronic Wasting Disease testing.

Processing inspections

Processing inspection rates for Alberta government licensed meat facilities year-over-year comparison, April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

Up to 3 unannounced processing inspections are conducted in provincially licensed meat facilities each year to help ensure food safety. During these inspections, all aspects related to the food safety systems and the facility are evaluated, providing a comprehensive snapshot of each facility’s processing operations.

Table 1. Processing inspection frequency at licensed meat facilities for the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year

Inspection period Facilities operating Inspections conducted % Facilities inspected
April to July 75 65 87%
August to November 75 74 99%
December to March 75 70 93%
Processing inspection completion rate for the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year 93%

The year is split into 3 inspection periods. The above table describes the number of licensed meat facilities operating during a particular inspection period and the number of processing inspections conducted. A total of 209 processing inspections were conducted at 80 licensed meat facilities during the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year. Not all facilities are in operation for the entire year; for the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year, there were 75 facilities in operation during each inspection period.

Processing inspections are unannounced, and meat and dairy inspection staff make every effort to complete 3 inspections per year, one in each inspection period. However, in some cases this is not possible because licensed meat facilities conduct processing activities on varying schedules based on their business models.

Some businesses operate daily, some only a few processing days per year, some only during specific times of the year, that is, seasonally, and other businesses begin or cease operations during the course of a year.

The number of facilities receiving processing inspections ranged from 65 to 74 depending on the inspection period. There were 75 facilities in operation during each inspection period. Overall, 93% of all possible inspections were completed in 2017 to 2018. Out of 225 inspections, 16 inspections were not completed because the facility was not operating when the inspector arrived to conduct a random inspection. By comparison, the inspection completion rate was 96% for fiscal year 2016 to 2017 and 86% for 2015 to 2016.

Figure 1. Processing inspection completion rate at Agriculture and Forestry-licensed meat facilities, fiscal year comparison

In addition to processing inspections, 6,455 slaughter inspections were conducted in the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year. Slaughter inspections are scheduled with an abattoir operator in advance to ensure a meat inspection branch inspector is present each time a facility performs slaughter activities in accordance with regulations.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry works with Alberta Health Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health to help ensure safe food for Albertans. AHS Environmental Public Health data is available online on the AHS website (PDF, 61 KB).

Fact sheets

Meat Inspection Regulation (PDF, 91 KB)

Meat Inspection Regulation Amendments

The above Open Government record includes the following fact sheets:

  • On-Farm Slaughter
  • Red Tape Reduction
  • Salvage and Sale of Meat By-products
  • Video Ante-mortem Inspection

Contact

Connect with the Meat and Dairy Inspection Team:
Email: af.foodsafety@gov.ab.ca