UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Photo by Andrea Wiseman/Courtesy of Blake Hall

Five foods you’d think we could produce enough of in Canada

By Pieta Woolley


It’s impossible not to feel hope and optimism when reading Lois Ross’ compelling story in this month’s Observer, “The New Agrarians.”

Amidst the massive decline in farms in Canada, and the imminent retirement of more than half of the country’s remaining farmers, she profiles several millennials taking up the hoe.

Indeed, growing food for personal and commercial reasons is a surging ethical movement — one that’s present in every community in Canada, whether rural or urban. Producing things locally and caring for what’s produced is clearly one key to a sustainable future.

Nevertheless, if you look closer at the state of food production in Canada, and you’ll see the vast mountain that these young, ethical agrarians have set out to climb.

Between 2011 and 2015, the amount of food Canada imported from other countries — mostly the U.S., Mexico and China — grew from $34 billion in 2011 to $47 billion in 2015. That represents a 39 percent increase in imports over a short period of time. Some imports come by relatively clean rail. Others come by truck and container ship, spewing such vast amounts of climate change-inducing gases. So the good-willed recycling of your breakfast sausages’ styro-and-cello wrapping may be a futile final act.

But if you, like me, need darkness to see the light, the latest Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada import report is a good place to start.

Here are five foods that Canada could clearly be growing at home instead of being imported in record volumes.

1. Milk & Cream

Imported in 2015: $32 million

Growth in five years: 42 percent

Considering how much milk we drink, imports don’t account for a huge percentage of dairy consumption. Still, given Canada’s vast prairies and farm reserves near urban areas, you’d think that we could pull off 71 litres per person each year in the country.

2. Fish fillets and other fish meat

Imported in 2015: $718 million

Growth in five years: 30 percent increase

“A Mari Usque Ad Mare” is the Canadian National Motto. A more resent, cheeky adaption is “from sea to sea to sea,” including the Arctic Ocean, which coincidentally is full of delicious Arctic Char. In other words, we have oceans. And lakes. And fish. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working hard to prevent another collapse, but considering that we exported $340 million worth of fish in 2015, perhaps we could spare a few fillets for the home team? 

3. Oats

Imported in 2015: $4 million

Growth in five years: 25 percent increase

Canadians just aren’t eating as many oats as we used to. Back in 1982, 96 percent of all oats produced in Canada were eaten in the country. Now, 69 percent are exported, according to the Prairie Oat Growers Association. That still doesn’t explain why Canada imports oats, though.

4. Eggs

Imported in 2015: $204 million

Growth in five years: 323 percent growth

Canadians are eating more eggs than ever, at 19.4 dozen per person every year. That’s due in part to the falling popularity of cereal for breakfast (sorry, oats!), egg marketing and a shift to protein-centred diets. But a curious $62 million worth of eggs leaves the country each year.

5. Water and ice

Imported in 2015: $93 million

Growth in five years: 25 percent

In what’s perhaps the most bizarre nugget in the exports report, Canada is importing water — and ice. We export $23 million worth of both per year.


Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

Enclaves of the elderly

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: A shoulder to lean on

by Observer Staff

Sheima Benembarek was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Morocco and moved to Canada in 2005. In 2015, she relocated to Toronto. At first, the city seemed so much bigger, impersonal — and even threatening — until a fateful encounter in the subway one day.

Promotional Image

Faith

January 2017

Presbytery turns down bid to halt Vosper hearing

by Mike Milne

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Society

February 2017

An anatomy of hate

by Douglas Tindal

It’s on the rise everywhere. The writer explores our most troubling emotion and asks how we might overcome it.

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Society

January 2017

The new agrarians

by Lois Ross

In the next 15 years, almost half of Canadian farms will change hands. Meet seven millennials who view agriculture as a career — and moral calling.

Faith

March 2016

The Walrus Talks Spirituality

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image