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!

Ethics

Parliament House in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: Pixabay

Sweden’s governing party pledges to abolish religious schools

by Al Donato

Should they be re-elected in September, the Swedish Social Democrats announced that their education policy would eliminate gender and religious segregation in schools.

Promotional Image

Observations

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: Our magazine's plastic problem

by Jocelyn Bell

"While I can easily defend the use of a polybag on financial grounds, it would be unconscionable to deliver a cover story about plastics . . . in plastic."

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Features

April 2018

What that recycling logo actually means

by Susan Nerberg

Contrary to popular belief, its presence doesn’t guarantee the product is reusable or recyclable.

Features

April 2018

Tea bags and other surprising places plastics lurk

by Susan Nerberg

Hidden plastics rarely get recycled and often can’t be reused. Here we make some of the invisibles visible.

Culture

April 2018

3 fascinating books shed light on the refugee crisis

by Lisa Van de Ven

Recent fiction about the refugee experience invites readers to broaden their emotional borders.

Profiles

October 2017

Fall from grace

by Justin Dallaire

Don Hume was a United Church minister nearing retirement. Then he tried crack cocaine.

Features

April 2018

10 easy ways to kick our nasty plastic habit

by Susan Nerberg

It's not as hard as you think.

Features

April 2018

What that recycling logo actually means

by Susan Nerberg

Contrary to popular belief, its presence doesn’t guarantee the product is reusable or recyclable.

Promotional Image