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Does Canadian Ground Beef Use Ammonia?

Updated on May 8, 2011

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  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 -,_c._870.pdf <,_c._870.pdf> ), and it has been used in a number of foods for centuries, such as ammonia cookies (

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 ( <> ).  This is an international expert committee that provides advice to the FAO/WHO. Its use is approved in the United States by the FDA:

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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