Importing Meat Into Canada

Is it possible to commercially import meat from the United States or from other countries?

Products originating from the United States

Yes, you can import meat products or by-products from the United States. However, there are certain restrictions.

  • The exporter must be recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). To become a CFIA-recognized exporter, the U.S. processing facility must be inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition, before the meat is exported to Canada, CFIA management must make sure the U.S. exporter complies with American meat processing regulations. Each U.S. facility is identified by a number that must be marked on each package of meat and each shipping carton.
  • Each shipment must include an export certificate to determine the product’s eligibility for entry into Canada. The export certificate for American meat is issued by the USDA veterinarian who oversees the export facility.
  • The labels on ready-to-eat products must comply with Canadian requirements.
  • All shipping cartons of meat products or by-products must comply with CFIA labeling requirements. The product identification must always appear on the shipping carton.
  • Documents must be submitted to the CFIA Import Service Centre for approval before an application for release to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is filed.
  • A Canadian reinspection facility must be consulted to ensure product compliance. This facility must be a federally inspected facility, namely one that is governed by CFIA regulations.
  • Importers will also need to be in possession of a CFIA (Safe foods for Canadians) import license. Information is available on the CFIA website on how to obtain this license.

All imported meat products are evaluated based on animal species and origin, cut, presentation and final use. This is also what will determine the import conditions.

Moreover, shipments of meat cannot be transported in-bond within Canada. The shipment must be released by CFIA at the port of landing (the point at which it first enters Canada). Otherwise, the consignment could be returned to the first point of landing for release and then sent to its destination.

It is recommended that you consult the CFIA Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) at to find out all CFIA import conditions. When you consult this site, make sure you have the correct description or correct HS (harmonized system) code so as to obtain the right information. The Import Conditions section of the site lists the telephone numbers for contacting CFIA services.

Products originating from other countries

Yes, you can import meat products or by-products from countries other than the United States, although the procedure is more complicated. In addition to having the correct product description, you must also know the health status of the export country, which determines the control of contagious animal diseases according to species. The status is evaluated based on the number of contagious diseases inside the country. The major contagious disease that countries want to avoid is foot-and-mouth disease, which attacks all ungulates. You can verify a country’s status by consulting the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). If there are animal contagious diseases in the country, depending on the species, it may not be eligible to export its products to Canada. A country may be eligible to export only one species of meat, for example, beef, pork or poultry. Moreover, the export country must have a meat inspection system that is equivalent to our own and recognized by CFIA. If the country is eligible, official export documents must be issued by its Ministry of Agriculture for the merchandise to be accepted into Canada. All consignments of meat products or by-products must be reinspected in a Canadian facility that is governed by CFIA regulations.

In both cases, the documentation will be reviewed and, if everything is in order, the consignment will be released from Customs and sent to a federally inspected CFIA facility for reinspection. If the consignment is accepted during reinspection, the merchandise will be authorized for distribution on the Canadian market. However, if the consignment is refused, CFIA will issue a notice of withdrawal, and the product will have to leave Canada within a specific time period or be destroyed at an approved site under the supervision of a CFIA inspector or a CBSA officer.

It is a good idea to use the services of a customs broker to facilitate the release of the consignment. Most of the information is electronically transmitted to CFIA and CBSA.

Please note that all information on this blog is subject to change. All blog articles are for information purposes only. We are always available to answer in detail any questions our clients may have regarding the information in this blog.

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About the author
John Weight is a licensed customs broker, active in the customs brokerage industry since 1970. John possesses three designations: CSCB Canadian Society of Customs Brokers, Certified Customs Specialist (CCS) and Certified Trade Compliance Specialist (CTCS).