I thought of a really bad pun on the word "bean," but I guess I can spare you.
August 20, 2009 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Why do cans of beans usually come in 19 fluid ounce cans in Canada, and 15 ounce cans in the US?

Whenever I see American recipes that call for a can of beans, they list the can size at 15 or 15.5 ounces. All the cans I get in Ontario (and did in BC) were 19 liquid ounces. After asking on a foodie forum, I also learned that in the US, beans often include a weight in grams; my can also has a volume in millilitres. I'm curious as to why they do things differently and if my 19 fluid ounce can contains approximately the same quantity of beans as an American's 15.5 ounce can. (Note that I do not have easy access to an American can to check.)

I think that canned tomatoes might also vary between the countries, but I'm not certain. A typical can here is 19 liquid ounces.
posted by synecdoche to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Almost every can of tomatoes I've seen here in Ontario is 28 liquid ounces.

(our beans are 19 fluid ounces though, and I've always wondered why my bean meals always turn out too beany)
posted by Midnight Rambler at 4:38 PM on August 20, 2009

Hmmm. My American can of beans just says Net Wt 15oz (425g).
posted by orme at 4:43 PM on August 20, 2009

As a solid, beans in the US are sold by weight, not by volume. I.E. as orme notes, the can contains 15 avoirdupois ounces of beans, not 15 fluid ounces.
posted by dersins at 4:51 PM on August 20, 2009

Oh, now I understand that you realize that, and are asking whether 19 fluid ounces of beans are roughly equivalent to 15 avoirdupois ounces. I don't know and I'm sorry I cluttered up your askme. If you have a Canadian can of beans and a scale, though, you can find out.
posted by dersins at 4:56 PM on August 20, 2009

Not an answer, but Progresso beans do come in 19 oz cans in the US, right next to the other brands in 15.5 oz cans.
posted by smackfu at 5:22 PM on August 20, 2009

Response by poster: Midnight Rambler, I have a couple of cans of tomatoes that are 19 (liquid) ounces, but also get them in 28 (liquid) ounce cans, too. I've seen a number of (presumably American in origin) recipes that call for a 14 ounce can of tomatoes.

The other part of my question is this: does anybody know why they do this differently in Canada than they do in the US?
posted by synecdoche at 5:30 PM on August 20, 2009

A wild guess: did Canada ever use the imperial pint (of 20 ounces)? In that case, cans could have started out at 16 ounces in the US and 20 in Canada, and then both got cut slightly at some indeterminate point in the past when it was judged to be a better move to cut package sizes than to raise prices.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:45 PM on August 20, 2009

madcaptenor: yes, we did, prior to the switch to metric.

US fl oz and CA fl oz are different sizes, but I'm not digging through class notes to find out the numbers. Rough memory indicates the disparity is accounted for by that, and the 15/19 cans will be identical sizes.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:40 PM on August 20, 2009

According to google:

19 Imperial fluid ounces = 539.848411 mL

15 US fluid ounces = 443.602943 mL

I don't think the different types of fluid oz. accounts for the can size difference.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:52 PM on August 20, 2009

Well the wiki on cooking weights and measure says that 19.2 US fluid ounces is 1 British Imperial pint. Also, this table from the Can Manufacturers Institute would seem to suggest that while US beans come in a no 300 can (15.2 fl oz.), Canadian beans come in a no 300 Cylinder (19.4 fl oz.). Why the difference, I think you'll have to ask the can guys. They certainly got their money's worth from their corporate historian. Best guess seems to be that whoever started the first bean-canning factories on either side of the border simply picked different sizes (imperial v. US pint) and these became the standard.

One tidbit I have to share from their oddly fascinating history of the tin can: "Sir William Edward Parry made two arctic expeditions to the Northwest Passage in the 1820's and took canned provisions on his journeys. One four-pound tin of roasted veal, carried on both trips but never opened, was kept as an artifact of the expedition in a museum until it was opened in 1938. The contents, then over one hundred years old, were chemically analyzed and found to have kept most of their nutrients and to be in fairly perfect condition. The veal was fed to a cat, who had no complaints whatsoever."
posted by Diablevert at 7:56 PM on August 20, 2009

Under the Canadian Agricultural Products Act there is are regulations for processed foods which define standard container sizes, net weight vs drained weight, labelling and, oh so much more.
posted by squeak at 8:05 PM on August 20, 2009

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