Chapter 17 - Ante and Post-mortem Procedures, Dispositions, Monitoring and Controls - Meat Species, Ostriches, Rheas and Emus
17.7 Post-Mortem Examination and Post-Mortem Inspection

This page is part of the Guidance Document Repository (GDR).

Looking for related documents?
Search for related documents in the Guidance Document Repository

17.7.1 Post-Mortem Examination and Post-Mortem Inspection Principles

The following principles should be respected:

  • Routine post-mortem examination or inspection of red meat carcasses is based on the examination of heads and their lymph nodes, thoracic and abdominal viscera and their lymph nodes, and the exposed parts of the carcass. A more minute veterinary inspection is made of organs and the carcass including body lymph nodes, where applicable, when significant abnormalities are observed during routine examination or inspection or when the carcass is that of an animal identified as a suspect on ante-mortem.
  • Where a carcass is presented for post mortem examination or inspection and it has been partially dressed under an approved procedure, a diligent post mortem examination or inspection shall be performed to ensure that those organs and exposed carcass parts that are presented have no abnormalities present. Should any abnormality relating to a possible food safety concern be observed in the carcass or its parts, the veterinarian shall require that the partially dressed carcass be subjected to a full dressing procedure.
  • When it is obvious that a portion will be condemned, it is still necessary to conduct the full routine examination or inspection, e.g.: incision of lymph nodes and masseter and internal pterygoid muscles is still required on a contaminated beef head.
  • When significant deviations from the normal are observed, the dressed carcass and all its corresponding detached parts shall be held and referred to a veterinarian for final inspection and disposition.
  • Subsection 83 (3) of the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 (MIR) provides authority for the veterinarian to direct either the operator or an inspector to remove the blood, carcass or portions of a carcass demonstrating certain deviations from normal appearance without being referred to the veterinarian for detailed examination.
  • Because of the volume of the gastrointestinal tract, it is permissible for an operator, and by mutual agreement with the Veterinarian in Charge, to dispose of bovine stomachs and intestines that appear normal as condemned material instead of holding them.
  • It is the responsibility of the inspection staff to take immediate action if management does not adhere to its responsibilities. Such action could be to demand that the rate of slaughter be slowed down, to temporarily suspend inspection services until management has corrected the situation, etc.
  • Veterinary inspection includes assessing the degree of involvement in the case of many diseases and conditions. In order to determine if a disease or condition is localized or generalized, the appropriate lymph nodes shall be examined. The following are examples of some of the lymph nodes which might be examined: caudal deep cervical, superficial cervical, hepatic, renal, superficial inguinal (scrotal or mammary), medial and lateral iliac, subiliac, deep popliteal, etc.

17.7.2 Roles and Responsibilities

Every operator shall ensure that carcasses and their parts are presented for post-mortem examination or inspection in such a way as to permit proper examination by plant personnel or CFIA inspectors. To that effect, the operator and the Veterinarian in Charge shall agree on an adequate presentation standard. This standard may be presented as a schematic or with a picture.

All operators slaughtering swine as only species must control their slaughtering and dressing procedures by complying with the HACCP Based Slaughter Inspection Program (HIP) requirements for Swine (see Annex C of this chapter).

All beef plants operating at line speeds above 140 carcasses per hour must control their slaughtering and dressing procedures by complying with the High Line Speed Inspection System (HLIS) requirements for beef. Refer to the Annex B of this chapter for a detailed description of the High Line Speed Inspection System (HLIS) for beef.

The operator is responsible for removing all dressing defects as well as certain specific pathologies. This can be done on the main evisceration line or on the operator held rail as long as both procedures meet acceptable sanitary practices.

The CFIA is responsible for identifying 2 types of defective carcasses, those classified as CFIA/Operator managed portions and those classified as CFIA or veterinary managed conditions. The operator is responsible for identifying and managing defective carcasses and parts classified as Operator Managed Portions.

Although identification of fecal, ingesta and milk contamination is the operator's responsibility, CFIA will continue to perform oversight of operator's identification activities at the carcass inspection station.

17.7.2.1 Held Rails

The operator shall provide 2 separate held rails for the purpose of managing retained carcasses.

Carcasses placed on the Operator Held rail shall be of two types for the purposes of managing and removing portions that are affected by certain defects that are deemed to be inedible. These 2 categories shall be referred to as:

  • CFIA/Operator managed portions; and
  • Operator managed portions.

Carcasses placed on the Veterinary held rail shall be for veterinary disposition purposes only.

17.7.2.1.1 Operator Held Rail

17.7.2.1.1.1 CFIA/Operator Managed Portions

These are carcass portions that are affected with defects that do not meet edible standards and are generally the result of visible pathological conditions that do not pose a significant food safety risk. Under the current traditional inspection system, a CFIA inspector will detect and identify carcasses with these defects. The CFIA will not provide continuous direct oversight of the activities occurring on the CFIA/Operator rail. However, at least once per shift, the CFIA will validate that the activities relating to portion removal and carcass control are being properly applied. The following list of defects is currently deemed to be a joint CFIA/Operator-managed responsibility:

  • Skin conditions (thickening, ringworm, necrosis, dermatitis, frostbite, etc.) – porcine hide-on dressing.
  • Skin infections – porcine hide-on dressing.
  • Bruising or fracture without necrosis – all species.
  • Tarsal arthropathy (swelling of one or two joints) – all species.
  • Melanosis – all species.
  • Localized swelling – all species.
  • Hydronephrosis and renal cysts – all species.
  • Granulomatous lymphadenitis detected at a single primary site – porcine.
  • Atrophic rhinitis (without purulent nasal discharge) – porcine.
  • Abscessed head – all species.
17.7.2.1.1.2 Operator Managed Portions

The operator is fully responsible for dressing carcasses in the prescribed manner as well as detecting and removing all dressing defects as well as certain prescribed pathologies. Where these defects pose a food safety risk, such as in the case of fecal, ingesta or milk contamination the controls necessary for ensuring the complete removal of these affected portions must be defined by the establishment's HACCP system.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of dressing defects and pathologies that must be treated as part of the operator's control program as prescribed by Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990. The operator is responsible for the identification and removal of all these defects.

  • Cutaneous lesions resulting from processing (e.g. overscalding, mutilation), skin thickening (hyperkeratosis), frostbite, contact dermatitis, urine burn, etc – porcine.
  • Skin conditions (thickening, ringworm, necrosis, dermatitis, frostbite, etc.) – hide-on dressed - carcasses other than porcine (e.g. lamb).
  • Defects in the dehairing process, resulting in the need to remove the skin – porcine.
  • Contamination: hair, stains (bile, oil, etc.), gastro-intestinal contents, milk, etc. – all species.
  • Minor bruising – all species.
  • Any dry adhesions – all species.

If it is determined by the operator that it is not feasible to trim a carcass which has a dressing defect, i.e. contamination, burnt, mutilated or overscalded, these carcasses may be disposed of as inedible. The CFIA will not provide a condemnation certificate for these defects. The operator is responsible to record the number of carcasses disposed of along with the type of defect and submit these numbers to the VIC monthly.

17.7.2.1.2 Veterinary Held Rail

17.7.2.1.2.1 CFIA/Veterinary Managed Conditions

All carcasses which are identified with a pathological condition which necessitates veterinary inspection shall be removed from the main rail to the veterinary held rail. Carcasses requiring only trimming due to dressing defects or bruises are not permitted to go on the veterinary rail. Depending on the nature of the defect and in accordance with the instructions from the Veterinarian in Charge, it may also be necessary to hold the offal and viscera of the affected carcasses.

There shall be no contact between visibly contaminated carcasses on the veterinary held rail until the veterinary examination is completed and final disposition is determined. Where partial approval is given, the veterinarian ensures that the parts to be condemned are completely removed by the operator before the carcass leaves the held rail. Condemned carcasses and all their parts must remain under inspection control until the operator disposes of them in accordance with the veterinarian's instructions.

The operator shall ensure that only dressed carcasses leave the held rail.

Where the operator requests a certificate of condemnation for a carcass, the operator is responsible to maintain an identification system that will allow the veterinarian to adequately describe the carcass on the certificate including its weight if necessary.

In the case of partial condemnations by the CFIA the removed parts may be weighed and recorded by the operator. The veterinarian will not monitor the weighing or collection of information by the operator and no condemnation certificate will be issued by the CFIA. As in the case of operator-managed portions, the CFIA is not involved in the commercial settlement process that occurs between the producer and the processor.

17.7.3 Post-Mortem Inspection of Bovines

17.7.3.1 Head Inspection

It is strongly suggested that the head be inspected before the carcass has been inspected in order to facilitate the operations.

The inspection shall not commence until the head is clean, properly prepared, (free of hair, pieces of skin, contamination, horns, palatine tonsils removed, etc.) and presented in a satisfactory manner.

The inspector must perform a visual examination of the head, including the eyes and the tongue, to detect any abnormality.

The tongue shall be palpated to detect abscesses, actinobacillosis, and other abnormal conditions.

An incision shall be made through the center of the each internal pterygoid and external masseter muscles. Such incision should be made parallel to the mandible and right through the muscle (exposing at least 75% of the muscle's surface). The incision should expose predominantly the muscle tissue and to minimum extent the connective tissue (3:1 ratio) in order to detect parasitic lesions (e.g. Cysticercus bovis).

The medial retropharyngeal, lateral retropharyngeal, parotid and mandibular lymph nodes are to be exposed, examined visually and carefully incised. Two to three incisions/slices right through the nodes is considered sufficient.

Consult the Annex D of this chapter for more details concerning the age determination.

17.7.3.2 Viscera Inspection

The lungs should be visually inspected and palpated to detect chronic pneumonia, abscesses, tumors, etc. The right and left tracheobronchial, cranial and caudal mediastinal lymph nodes shall be incised and examined.

The liver shall receive a visual inspection and be thoroughly palpated. The hepatic lymph nodes shall be incised and examined.

The exterior and interior of the heart (i.e. the valves and the endocardium) shall be visually inspected.

In order to detect parasitic lesions (e.g. Cysticercus bovis), the cut surface of the heart musculature of all cattle and calves over the age of six weeks shall be visually inspected by one of the following methods:

  • By making one incision that passes through the interventricular septum from base to apex in order to open the heart and expose both ventricles.
  • By everting the heart and making three shallow incisions in the heart musculature.

Extra incisions of the heart may be performed when deemed necessary by the inspector or the veterinarian (e.g. Animals suspected of being affected with Cysticercus bovis).

The mesenteric lymph nodes are to be visually examined. Mesenteric lymph nodes should be incised by the inspector when it is enlarged or when the inspector or veterinarian found suspicious lesions in other lymph nodes during the routine inspection. If incision of the lymph node reveals the presence of a granulomatous lesion, the lesion should be collected and submitted to the laboratory for bovine tuberculosis surveillance. Refer to Chapter 5 of this manual for more information on sampling submission for bovine tuberculosis surveillance program.

The spleen shall be visually examined and palpated; it may be incised if a complete examination is found to be necessary. Kidneys may be examined, either in the carcass or separately, for example with the other viscera. In either case they shall be fully exposed by the operator prior to inspection and visually examined by the inspector.

The reticulum, rumen, omasum and abomasum are to be visually inspected. The rumino-reticular junction shall be visually examined to detect any abnormalities that may affect this area of the gastro-intestinal tract such as existing inflammatory conditions, abscesses, presence of protruding foreign bodies as a result of reticular puncture, etc.

17.7.3.3 Carcass Inspection

The inspection of the carcass is performed after the viscera have been removed, but before carcass washing. The inspection consists of a careful examination of the external surfaces of the carcass, the internal cavity, including a visual inspection of the iliac lymph nodes and of the cut surface of the vertebrae, as applicable.

If the kidneys have been left in the carcass, they shall be visually inspected.

17.7.4 Post-Mortem Inspection of Calves

All inspection procedures are similar to those described for cattle, except for the following description.

The inspection for Cysticercus bovis may be omitted in the case of calves less than six weeks of age. Incisions of the internal pterygoid and external masseter muscles and incision of the internal surface of the heart (endocardium) are not necessary.

For calves older than six weeks of age for which incision of the external masseter muscles is undesirable for marketing reasons, follow all other post-mortem procedures applied to cattle with two exceptions:

  1. Incisions of the internal pterygoid and external masseter muscles are not performed unless the animal is suspected of being infected with Cysticercus bovis; and
  2. Three additional incisions from the internal surface of the heart (endocardium) are performed on top of the routine incisions described in bovine.

Refer to Chapter 5 for information regarding the disposition of veal carcasses with evidence of hormonal growth promotants.

17.7.5 Post-Mortem Inspection of Sheep, Lambs and Goats

Routine inspection procedures for adult sheep and goat consist of a visual examination of the dressed carcass, head, and viscera. In addition, the lungs, heart, and liver shall be palpated.

The retropharyngeal lymph nodes shall be incised except for partially dressed carcasses, where it may be easier to incise the parotid lymph nodes. The mesenteric lymph nodes shall be observed. In addition, the bronchial, mediastinal, hepatic, and superficial body lymph nodes (subiliac, superficial inguinal or mammary, superficial cervical) are to be routinely visualized and palpated.

Lymph nodes shall be incised whenever palpation is inadequate to determine the absence of abscesses indicating caseous lymphadenitis or if granulomas are suspected. Granulomas consistent with a Tuberculosis lesion shall be submitted to the laboratory (see Chapter 5).

Inspection of lambs is performed using the same procedure, except that:

  • the examination of the superficial body lymph nodes on partially dressed lamb (skin on) carcasses is done by palpating the subiliac and prescapular lymph nodes.

17.7.6 Post-Mortem Inspection of Horses

The inspection of the head must also include the guttural pouch. Careful examination must be made of the abdominal walls for encysted parasites, of the neck region for fistulous conditions near the first two cervical vertebrae, and of the axillary and subscapular spaces of white and gray horses for melanosis.

All other inspection procedures are similar to those for cattle, except:

  • An examination for C. bovis is not required.
  • The mesenteric lymph nodes are to be examined visually and palpated. Any abnormality that is detected shall be further investigated by incision.

17.7.7 Post-Mortem Inspection Farmed Game Animals (Ruminants)

All inspection procedures are similar to those described for cattle.

17.7.8 Post-Mortem Inspection of Wild Game - Reindeer, Caribou and Musk Ox

The CFIA has agreed to provide inspection services to groups involved in the hunting of these species where a post-mortem inspection of the carcasses is needed to allow marketing of the meat of reindeer, caribou and musk ox. Requests shall be addressed to the Area Red Meat Program Specialist for an evaluation.

17.7.8.1 Head Inspection

A visual inspection of the head to detect any gross abnormality must be completed. In the case where heads and/or tongues are saved for human consumption, mandibular lymph nodes shall be exposed, examined visually and then incised, and the tongue palpated.

17.7.8.2 Viscera Inspection

The lungs shall be visually inspected and palpated. Associated lymph nodes shall be incised and examined. Special attention should be given to presence of hydatid cysts.

The liver shall be visually inspected and palpated. Both liver flukes and cysticerci may be expected.

Hearts shall be examined visually and then incised longitudinally by at least four deep incisions to permit visual inspection for parasitic and other lesions.

Mesenteric lymph nodes shall be visually examined and palpated.

Kidneys shall be exposed and examined visually.

17.7.8.3 Carcass Inspection

A careful examination of the internal and external surfaces of the dressed carcass shall take place prior to washing of the carcass. Visual inspection shall include the joints, outer muscle surface, the body cavities, the diaphragm and its pillars. Pillars of the diaphragm must be incised in order to detect parasites (e.g. Cysticercus spp.).

The prefemoral lymph node shall be palpated to detect pathology resulting from warble migration.

17.7.9 Post-Mortem Inspection of Hogs

17.7.9.1 Head Inspection

A visual examination of the head shall be performed and the mandibular lymph nodes shall be incised and examined.

17.7.9.2 Viscera Inspection

The intestines, stomach, spleen, mesenteric lymph nodes, left tracheobronchial lymph node, hepatic lymph node, lungs, liver, kidneys and heart are to be visually examined. Kidneys must be fully exposed prior to inspection and can be presented either in the carcass or separately (e.g. with the other viscera).

17.7.9.3 Carcass Inspection

The inspection of the carcass is performed after the viscera have been removed, but before carcass washing. The inspection consists of a careful examination of the external surfaces of the carcass, the internal cavity, including a visual inspection of iliac lymph nodes and of the cut surface of the vertebrae, as applicable.

If the kidneys have been left in the carcass, they shall be visually inspected.

For unsplit carcasses (partial dressed BBQ hogs), if any abnormality is observed on the carcass or its parts that may relate to food safety, the carcass shall be immediately disqualified from being approved as a partially dressed carcass and shall be split for post mortem inspection.

17.7.10 Post-Mortem Inspection of Ostriches, Rheas and Emus

17.7.10.1 Head Inspection

The head, eyes, sinus openings and the neck shall be visually inspected.

17.7.10.2 Viscera Inspection

The abdominal and thoracic air sacs must be visually inspected in situ. The heart is visually inspected, palpated, and incised through the interventricular septum to expose the inner surfaces for inspection. The lungs are visually inspected and palpated on all external surfaces. The liver and spleen are visually inspected and palpated. The kidneys are visually inspected and palpated in the carcass (in situ) or separately (e.g. with the other viscera). The oesophagus and gizzard must be visually inspected.

17.7.10.3 Carcass Inspection

The inspection of the carcass is performed after the viscera have been removed, but before carcass washing. The inspection consists of a careful examination of the external surfaces of the carcass and the internal cavity.

Date modified: