Shoppers heading to the grocery store Thursday will be able to see if their beef has been mechanically tenderized.

The government has introduced new mandatory labels that must clearly indicate when beef is mechanically tenderized and include instructions for safe cooking.

“There will be a sticker on the package that informs the shopper that is the method by which this meat has been tenderized,” said federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose.

“People need to know when they see that it’s also their responsibility to cook that meat all the way through.”


The 2012 XL Foods beef recall was the largest in Canadian history. It prompted the federal government to examine many regulations in the industry, including labelling of tenderized meats. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Mechanical tenderization of meat is a common practice used in the food industry to improve the flavour by using needles or blades to break down fibre muscles.

Packaged steaks will now have to include cooking instructions that say the meat must reach an internal temperature of 63 C and must be turned at least twice.

Federal officials began looking at the issues surrounding mechanically tenderized meat when E. coli was found in Alberta beef 2012, prompting the largest meat recall in Canadian history. 

Alberta's XL Foods plant was shut down for about a month after 18 people fell ill after eating meat linked to the plant. 

Sylvain Charlebois, who teaches agricultural policies at the University of Guelph, says many people already expected this to be standard.

“This added information is certainly helpful for some, but for a majority of consumers I think they just expect their products to be safe in the first place,” he said.

Ambrose said the new labels send a message to the food industry that the government is watching.

The regulatory change applies to all industry sectors selling uncooked mechanically tenderized beef: grocery retailers, butcher shops, meat processors and importers.