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!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

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

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image