Beef Grades - Retail Labelling & Advertising Guidelines

Federal legislation does not require grade information to appear on the label of prepackaged beef cuts or in advertising. However, retailers may want to provide this type of information to their customers. This bulletin is intended to assist retailers and others who prepackage beef cuts for retail sale in providing this information to consumers without offending the false and misleading provision prescribed in Section 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act.

The Livestock and Poultry Carcass Grading Regulations established under the Canada Agricultural Products Act do require that beef in the carcass, primal or sub-primal form that is imported or shipped from a registered establishment be labelled with the grade name of the carcass from which it was cut or, with the word "ungraded". This requirement ensures that grade information is available to all traders, including retailers.

To help ensure uniformity among all levels of trade, the retail labelling guidelines have also been updated to reflect the changes referred to above. These revised guidelines, which should be of assistance to retailers who want to voluntarily provide beef grade information to consumers, are provided below:

  1. Subject to item 2 below, the labelling or advertising (including display signs) of retail cuts of beef may include an indication of the grade name that was assigned to the carcass from which it was cut by:
    1. a grading authority established under the Canada Agricultural Products Act or a provincial law, or
    2. where the carcass was imported, a grading authority of the country from which the carcass was imported.
  2. All grade declarations referred to in item 1 must be preceded by the words "Cut from" (e.g., "Cut from Canada A", or "Cut from USDA Choice").
  3. In the context of items 1 and 2 above, when retail beef cuts are derived from carcasses of:
    1. one specific grade only, the label or advertisement declaration must make reference to that specific grade only (e.g., "Cut from Canada AA" or "Cut from USDA Choice");
    2. more than one grade, the label or advertisement declaration must make reference to the lowest grade involved plus the words "or higher" (e.g., "Cut from Canada A or higher", or "Cut from USDA Select or higher").
  4. Due to the above (item 3), former grade information declarations on retail packages or in advertising such as "Cut from Canada A/AA", "Cut from Canada A/AA/AAA" and "Cut from Canada A  Grades" are no longer acceptable.
  5. Grade information declarations on retail packages or in advertising such as "Cut from Canada A/AA", "Cut from Canada A/AA/AAA" and "Cut from Canada A" advertisements generally are not acceptable unless the cuts being advertised are:
    1. both available for purchase in separate displays for the entire period the ad was in effect, or
    2. both are available at some time during the period the ad was in effect. One could be available for part of the period and the other available for the remaining part, or they could overlap. However, the period of availability for each would have to be significant. If not, such an ad may be deemed to be false and misleading. Under no circumstances would such a declaration be allowed on the label of a prepackaged beef cut.
  6. Similar or identical grade names have been established by different countries for beef carcasses which are not of equivalent quality to Canadian grades. To avoid consumer confusion, grade names  which do not include the name of the country which established the grade must be accompanied by  a declaration of the country of origin. For example, while "A" is an Australian grade, the appropriate retail declaration would be "Cut from Australian A Grade".
  7. Retailers who sell more than one grade of beef must ensure the accuracy of any grade labelling  and advertising by keeping the various graded and ungraded products separate during in-store handling, processing, packaging, labelling and display. Accordingly, retailers who make "Cut from  [naming the grade]" declarations in relation to beef cuts must be able to demonstrate the measures   employed to maintain the identity of these products from the time they are received until they are offered for sale to consumers.
  8. Retailers who provide generic grade information in mass media advertisements or on in-store display signs (e.g., "Our beef is cut from Canada A or higher") must ensure that any ungraded beef which they also advertise or offer for sale is properly identified as "Cut from ungraded beef". Alternatively, grade information provided could be product specific.

    In this respect, it should be noted that "Cut from [naming the grade]" declarations are deemed to apply to intact muscle cuts and not necessarily to ground beef and stewing type beef. However, this type of grade information may be applied to such products ... if it is a true declaration.

Please note that these guidelines may be subject to specific provincial requirements.