Cattle and dairy farmers fear new food guide could hurt their industries

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Canada is set to release a replacement for its decade-old food guide next year, and it looks like the document will likely be in line with writer Michael Pollan’s commonly-cited dietary prescription « Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. »

But the rumoured minimization of meats and dairy has some food producers concerned the updated guide could cause a blow to their industries and negative health effects to boot.

Tom Kootstra, the chairman of Alberta Milk, is accusing Health Canada of unfairly targeting animal-based proteins and prioritizing vegetarian options for what he describes as « ideological reasons. »

« Initially they were reluctant to hear from industry … because of the perceived bias that these groups would bring to the conversation. But I think they need to realize we all come in with our biases and the obligation of Health Canada is to consider the science, » Kootstra told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Accusations of influence

Health Canada has faced accusations of being influenced by industry groups when compiling Canada’s Food Guide.

One edition of the guide published in the 1990s saw the recommended number of meat and dairy servings increased after industry complaints.

The country’s first-ever food guide was about more than just promoting nutrition — it was created during the Second World War, and included rules that discouraged people from eating foods needed for wartime export.

Later versions promoted the agriculture industry, and some details in the current guide have been criticized by medical professionals, like the suggestion that fruit juice is an acceptable serving of fruit or vegetables. 

Debate over protein sources

The updated document’s new guiding principle, established through consultations with the public and health officials but no one-on-one meetings with industry stakeholders, states that Health Canada recommends: « Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods, especially plant-based sources of protein. »

Plant-based proteins contain different forms of dietary iron than meats (non-heme versus heme) and the two forms are absorbed into the body differently.

While there are ways to get adequate sources of iron from just plants, one rancher worries Canadians could be confused by the new rules.

« We don’t want people to be misled thinking they’re getting the equivalent amount of nutrients as they would, » said Tom Lynch-Staunton, a rancher and the government relations manager with Alberta Beef Producers.

« Let’s say you’re eating lentils versus a piece of beef … we know the iron in the lentils will be harder to absorb and you won’t be getting essential nutrients like Vitamin B12, which only comes from animal foods. » 

Some ranchers may be concerned but an industry group representing plant-food producers is praising the new focus on environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

« We applaud Health Canada for heeding the growing body of evidence demonstrating that diets rich in plant-based foods are better for human and environmental health, » said Pamela Tourigny, executive director of the Plant Foods Council, in a release.

Health Canada plans to release the revised guide in two phases. In early 2019, part one will contain general healthy-eating recommendations for health professionals and policy makers and later in 2019, part two will consist of healthy eating patterns with recommended amounts and types of foods for the general public.

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Bread price-fixing, dairy industry make top 2018 food stories: Charlebois

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A lot happened in 2018 food-wise, from E. Coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce to dairy supply management problems.

Sylvain Charlebois, who researches food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, gave his two cents on the food stories that dominated this year.

Even though the story came out at the end of 2017, Charlebois points to bread price-fixing as something that dominated headlines in the beginning of the year.

However, he thinks there wasn’t a whole lot of attention given to the matter aside from the $25 gift card offered to consumers.

Another one on Charlebois’s list is Maple Leaf Foods’ decision to build a $660-million facility in London.

Maple Leaf Foods is expected to open the new facility in 2021. (CBC)

« A lot of people underappreciate how significant these decisions are, » he said.

« In the U.S., over the last decade, they were able to build almost 4,000 brand-new food processing plants and we’ve barely seen about 20 in Canada during the same period. »

While there’s good news there, Charlebois said dairy farmers are feeling a bit nervous with the new trade deals signed recently.

« We need to find supply and management 2.0, » said Charlebois.

According to Charlebois, the supply and management system set in place for dairy only accounts for producing enough products for the domestic demand. Now that « we’re allowing more products into the Canadian market, » he said an imbalance is created.

U.S. health officials have traced a dangerous bacterial outbreak in romaine lettuce to at least one farm in central California. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Romaine lettuce was also on top of people’s minds a few times with E. Coli outbreaks linked to produce originating from Arizona and California. Charlebois said people can expect more of these types of problems because of « global food supply chains. »

However, even if that happens, Charlebois said the outbreaks have been contained very quickly.

Moving into 2019, he anticipates the federal election will make things interesting because the new NAFTA hasn’t been ratified yet, where concessions in dairy were made.

« We’re going to see a new food guide for the first time in more than a decade, » he said. « Edibles will become legal in Canada, so that’s another interesting story in the food industry over the next little while. »

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This Vegan Creamed Spinach Recipe Will Fool ALL the Dairy Lovers at the Table | Healthyish

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These days, everyone comes to the Thanksgiving table with a dietary restriction. We bend over backwards trying to accommodate with gluten-free pies and vegan turkeys, all while trying to please our tradition-loving relatives too. (It’s just not Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes, we agree.) Rather than spending time and money on extra food, we think the best strategy is to make dishes that everyone can eat and love, like this creamed spinach with a secret omission: There’s no cream.

Healthyish Tofu Spinach 1

Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Yekaterina Boytsova

So creamy and comforting, it could double as a blanket.

Dairy-free creamed spinach isn’t just possible. It’s rich, creamy, and packed with flavor. The secret? Homemade tofu cream. We promise it works: Purée some drained silken tofu in a blender and you’ll get a sauce that’s as smooth and silky as heavy cream. (Just skip the extra-firm stuff, which won’t break down nearly enough.) And because tofu and spinach aren’t exactly known for being packed with flavor, senior food editor Andy Baraghani adds brightness with sautéed ginger, chile, ginger, and scallions. These aromatics aren’t traditional Thanksgiving flavors, but they add just enough heat and layers of flavor.

This recipe has the best healthyish intentions, calling for a hefty two pounds of mature spinach—not baby spinach—which holds its shape well and has bigger crunchy stems. It will seem like an absurd amount of spinach but, as always, those leafy greens will dramatically shrink down. Add the tofu cream as soon as the spinach is wilted and bright green—not even Popeye wants overcooked spinach.

Once that sautéed spinach is bathed in a creamy sauce punched up with flavorful aromatics, it becomes a side totally deserving of a spot on a crowded Thanksgiving table. And unlike nearly everything else on the menu, this dish stays on the stovetop—so you can save the oven space for the bird. And if your cousin unexpectedly shows up with his vegan roommate in tow, or Uncle Jim forgets his lactose pills, you can get this from the kitchen to the table in ten minutes flat. Now that’s something to be grateful for.

Bring on the spinach:

Healthyish-Tofu-Spinach-Horizontal.jpg

A Healthyish take on classic creamed spinach: Puréed silken tofu lends such a smooth, velvety consistency, your guests just might be fooled.

SEE RECIPE

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Reality check: Do Canadians need to worry about growth hormones in dairy post-USMCA? – National

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The new and improved NAFTA — called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — has opened the door to allow U.S. milk into the Canadian market.

Canada has agreed to provide U.S. dairy farmers access to about 3.5 per cent of its approximately $16-billion annual domestic dairy market.


READ MORE:
Canadians shouldn’t bet on lower dairy prices under new trade deal: experts

Along with outrage in support of the livelihoods of Canadian dairy farmers, Canadians are also concerned about the U.S.’s use of hormones on cows and the effect it will have on the milk they drink.

The recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a manmade bovine hormone that increases milk production in cows.

The hormone is banned in Canada and Europe because it’s been found that “it’s too stressful for that cows and it was rejected in this country or made illegal based on animal welfare grounds,” explained researcher Marie-Claude Fortin.

WATCH: Dairy Farmers on USMCA






The Animal Welfare Institute says the increased lactation period for cows doubles the “metabolic stress” of the cow, and increases the rates of illnesses in the cows.

It isn’t banned in the U.S.

Only about 20 per cent of U.S. farmers use the hormone, Fortin says since the synthetic hormone is identical to the natural hormone, it’s impossible to tell whether the hormone is present in milk.

As for effects on human health, the bovine hormone rBGH can trigger an increase in another hormone called IGF-1 which has the capacity to impact humans.


READ MORE:
Alberta dairy farmer explains why he’s disappointed with NAFTA replacement

Health Canada found no evidence of adverse health concerns from the hormone, which is also called rBST.

But Fortin says the science isn’t clear on how much this second hormone can affect us.

“Frankly, the results go both ways,” Fortin said.

“We have some studies in the United States that have looked at its possible impact on humans. … It’s not clear if there’s an increase in potential for the development of tumours or cancer.”

A study commissioned by Health Canada said there was not yet evidence to suggest IGF-1 is carcinogenic to humans, but that the worldwide scientific community will continue to study the matter.

No way to tell

While some dairies attempt to use farms that don’t use the growth hormone, there’s no test or third-party certification.

“It means that if Canadian consumers do not want to have dairy products (or) milk that comes from cows that have received this hormone, (there) is really very little we can do,” she said.

Once American milk starts coming into Canada, Fortin says processing plants will have to update their policies.

“Right now the different packages or labelling types that we see across the country are not are not equal in how much they disclose,” Fortin said.

“There’s nothing in any regulation of any source that requires that processing plants to disclose where the milk comes from because it has always come from Canada [previously].”

The one thing Canadians can do, is look for the “100% Canadian” logo on their dairy products — which has prompted both Canadian companies and consumers to talk about “buying Canadian.”

“This symbol guarantees 100% Canadian milk ingredients, no antibiotics and no synthetic growth hormones. #bluecow,” Manitoban cheese company Bothwell wrote on Facebook.

 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Prime Minister pledges compensation for dairy farmers hit by USMCA deal

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says dairy farmers will be compensated for their expected losses under the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, making the pledge directly at a meeting with their representatives on Thursday.

Trudeau met privately with dairy representatives in downtown Montreal amid concerns in the industry that they’re bearing the brunt under the recently concluded free-trade pact.

Canadian dairy farmers stand to lose 3.59 per cent of their market to U.S. producers under the new trade deal, known as USMCA.

« That’s why we’re going to be working with them over the coming weeks and months to figure out exactly what is the compensation they need, » Trudeau said after touring the offices of Montreal company Seville Films.

« How we can ensure not just that they’re OK, but that they continue to have confidence in the future of the dairy sector in Canada. »

The USMCA is the third free-trade agreement in which Canada has agreed to open access to its supply-managed sectors, this time including increased access for eggs, chicken and turkey.

While touting USMCA as a good deal for Canadians by securing access to its largest trading partner and the largest market in the world, Trudeau acknowledged those sacrifices.

« They told me they were worried, » Trudeau said of his meeting with milk producers. « They told me they felt they have continued to give through a number of trade deals they’ve signed, and they’re right. »

For example, under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership — with 10 countries including Mexico, Japan and Australia — dairy farmers ceded 3.25 per cent of the market.

‘Producers are right to be dissatisfied’

Dairy Farmers of Canada president Pierre Lampron wasn’t satisfied with what he heard.

« We recognize the symbolism of the gesture of Prime Minister Trudeau in offering to meet with our industry to hear our concerns firsthand, » he said in a statement. « However, the absence of details on measures to mitigate the impact of the concessions made within the USMCA, as well as the absence of a vision for the future of our industry at this time, cannot appease the concerns of the dairy farmers. »

Raymond Bachand, Quebec’s chief free-trade negotiator during the recently concluded negotiations, said the number one objective for Quebec was to preserve access to the American market and that was done.

Watch Raymond Bachand, Quebec’s chief free-trade negotiator, weigh in on the USMCA

Sometimes people cheat, so you need arbitration,’ says Quebec’s chief NAFTA negotiator Raymond Bachand. 6:56

« However, Ottawa has sold a portion of the milk market and it is clear that it hurts when added to European (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and the TPP deals, » Bachand said on the sidelines of a metallurgical conference.

« This is eight to 10 per cent of the market. Producers are right to be dissatisfied. But it’s not just compensation, but also strategic thinking to see how we make our businesses more competitive. »

Bachand said USMCA compensation would have to come quickly, noting compensation from the TPP deal took an extended period.

« If I tell you that you are going to lose some of your business, you do not want to wait five years to find out what you are going to have as compensation to be able to manage your finances and knowing where you are investing, » Bachand said.

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