National Newswatch

Meat consumption is at levels not seen since the 1980s, it says.


OTTAWA – The Canadian Meat Council (CMC) says meat consumption remains strong in Canada despite claims in the Canada Food Report 2019 that Canadians are moving to plant-based food alternatives.

The beef demand index showed a decrease of just 2 per cent in 2018, but Canadians maintained consumption levels not seen since the late 1980s, CMC said. “Statistics Canada data shows that meat consumption by Canadians has decreased steadily between 2004 and 2015 and not suddenly because of any specific dietary trends.”

CMC President Chris White said, “The report is misleading and makes assumptions that meat prices in Canada could go down because of demand and new market entries, when in fact many factors need to be considered. The global spike in meat prices in 2013-14 drove world wide meat production expansion. Increased supply has allowed prices to begin to decline across the world including in Canada.

“It’s simply a case of increased supply reducing the price,” he said. The Canadian Food Price Report 2019, prepared by academics from Dalhouse and Guelph universities, shows meat prices rose significantly from 2012 to 2016, “so the small recent decrease in price is also likely due to a market correction, and not directly linked to new market entries.”

White said the CMC has reassurances from Health Canada that an updated Canada Food Guide, long in the works, “would not tell Canadians to decrease their meat consumption, as it is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“While some Canadians are exploring new protein options, they also understand moderation which applies to all aspects of life,” he said. “Families are eating red meat well within the Food Guide recommendations, and more importantly, they understand the benefits of the essential nutrients that red meat provides.”

The Food Price Report predicts food prices will increase between 1.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent during 2019 with vegetables, fruit and bakery products leading the way. It predicted meat and seafood prices would drop. This forecast means that the annual food expenditure for the average Canadian family is expected to increase by $411 in 2019 to around $12,157 for the year.

It said, “We are seeing meat prices decline while plant-based proteins are on the rise, in addition to seafood price fluctuations due to availability, quality and traceability of certain imported products.”

The report noted its statement ahead of World Vegan Day Nov. 1 that

“Canadians may be less interested in meat and may be reducing meat in their diets.

“The same survey found that 32.2 per cent of respondents were considering reducing meat consumption, to a certain degree, within the next 6 months,” it said. “This aligns with the growth in interest in plant-based diets seen in other parts of the world. With time, plant-based and new meat companies will surely tap into the growth of this consumer preference.

“Meat consumption is on the decline; in the case of beef, Canadians annually consume approximately 94 million kilograms less per year, compared to 2010.”

It said the revised Canada Food Guide “will likely prioritize consumption of plant-based foods. It is unlikely that the agency will exclude animal-based proteins altogether, given the tension amongst interest groups within the agricultural sector. Livestock and dairy producers will likely challenge the messages being sent to Canadians about dietary choices in 2019 and future years.

“The rate of change at the consumer level and agility of the vegetarian and vegan movement, however, is likely to drive the new cycle and its influence on our society,” it said.

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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