Does Canadian Ground Beef Use Ammonia?

No Ammonia for the Canucks

Did you see the first couple episodes of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution second season? The one set in Los Angeles (LA)?  I did. They scared the snot out of me. The part about ground beef, or "pink slime" especially gave me the heeby jeebies. In a word, ewww.

Living in Canada, as I do most of the time these days, I decided to set about seeing if we had similar worries up here. I searched. I googled. I am pretty good at online research but nothing was coming up. References to the question did - Do they use ammonia for treating beef in Canada? Plenty of people asked the same, even four years ago, but nobody had the answer. Nerd that I am for facts I decided to try to get the answer from the horse's, err, COW'S mouth.

The Canadian Beef authority appears to be made up of or part of The Beef Information Centre (BIC)  which is "the Beef Market Development division of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association" and can be found via beefinfo.org.  They had a question form so I filled it. It was answered by their resident "Kitchen Expert" (a Home Economist - they have degrees in that??) who told me the following:

"Canada has strong processes in place that ensure Canadian beef is a safe and nutritious part of a balanced diet. ...In Canada we do not use ammonia in ground beef.  It has not been approved for use in packing plants by Health Canada.  However, various forms of ammonium salts are approved for use in some foods in Canada (see Division 16 of the Food and Drugs Regulations - http://laws.justice.gc.ca/PDF/Regulation/C/C.R.C.,_c._870.pdf <http://laws.justice.gc.ca/PDF/Regulation/C/C.R.C.,_c._870.pdf> ), and it has been used in a number of foods for centuries, such as ammonia cookies (http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/ammonia-cookies/Detail.aspx).

Ammonia is commonly found in nature and also produced in the human body as a building block for proteins. As well, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) says that ammonium hydroxide (which is essentially a solution of ammonia in water) can be used in over 60 food categories (http://www.codexalimentarius.net/gsfaonline/additives/details.html?id=380 <http://www.codexalimentarius.net/gsfaonline/additives/details.html?id=380> ).  This is an international expert committee that provides advice to the FAO/WHO. Its use is approved in the United States by the FDA:   www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/fcn/fcnDetailNavigation.cfm?rpt=scogsListing&id=27.

Ground beef is made from grinding the beef trimmings from cuts like steaks and roasts.  Source ground beef is ground from a piece of beef, like a sirloin steak.  Canada does not use the process that has been recently reported in U.S. media and on televisions shows.

Canada does import beef from the United States.  You can ask your retailer if the meat you are buying is Canadian. Canadian legislation requires that imported meat products meet the same standards and requirements as if they were produced in registered establishments in Canada. It also requires that the exporting country's inspection and certification systems along with the establishments operating under that system, be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before meat products are allowed to be imported into Canada.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the Federal Government Agency responsible for protecting Canada's food supply." (I added the bold, btw.)

Who else is terrified by the thought of ammonia cookies!? I thought there was a bit too much of a push for saying "ammonia is okay, guys...really!" but overall a pretty thorough answer. By this, we are reassured that Canadian beef and ground beef does NOT use ammonia. Phew. Sorry USA! You may have double-coupons but we have ammonia-free beef. Nyah nyah.

Seriously though, I felt better learning this morsel of information and since I could not find a definitive answer elsewhere, I hope you will be glad to learn it, too. Hamburgers anyone?

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Comments 11 comments

KIH 4 years ago

Ammonium Salt is either ammonium carbonate or ammonium chloride, one is used as a smelling Salt the other a food additive, both have a history of being used in food


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Rockinon Ldn 4 years ago

Some Beef Products Inc. customers are located in Canada according to the BPI site. BPI is the company that developed the ammonia process in the States. Ammonia is probably not used in Canada. The BPI process is unique. But, since BPI ships its ammonia processed meat product to Canada I think one might conclude that the stuff is being sold here.


Dominic 4 years ago

I would remain skeptical seeing as the response is from an industry association. It's in the best interest of the industry to make sure they tell us what we want to hear.


JT 4 years ago

Ammonia cookies are part of traditional Russian Mennonite baking. Nothing scary about them.


Bryan 4 years ago

I think its important to also find out if any Canadian meat products contain any "boneless lean beef trimmings" which in this case in the U.S. is sold as "lean finely textured beef" (a/k/a "pink slime"). This type of beef can also be processed with citric acid instead of ammonia, so it's not the ammonia that makes it "pink slime".


GG 4 years ago

while beef mot have amonia in Canada, beef, ork adn big turkey may be legally fed lean meat promoting drug like ractopamine for six weeks during "finishing" except for Organic lievstock

look up teh CFIA's compendium fo drugs(medication) for livestock


Teddy White 4 years ago

Today I watched Anderson,talking about the so called pink slim,so happy to hear canada does not add this to our meat,..happy canadian


Brenda 4 years ago

Yuk, yuk! Sure don't want stuff like that in my food. Eating is getting to be very scary. I am most concerned about what goes into food.


louis 4 years ago

I was recently told by my butcher that, since the last mad cow scare, a lot of Canadian meat is actually sold to US companies in order to work around a few regulations. Our beef is processed there and then shipped back to us... And I really doubt that those processing plants have a special process for the beef meant to be returned to Canada. Also, I'd be curious to see where Canadian divisions of big fast food chains get their meat, and if they have a special process just for burger paddies intended for the Canadian market.


To Louis 4 years ago

The slime was added to the beef at the retail store level. Not the butcher's level. They receive the bricks of slime at the Safeway store and grind it into the meat themselves.


cory 2 years ago

Almost all of ground beef purchased in Canada at your grocery store is from America over 90% of it so don't get confused we buy mostly american

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