A good food policy for Canada

Canadians have an opportunity to reshape the nation’s food policy away from meat and dairy and factory farming animal confinement systems

Humane Society International

  • Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad. Michelle Riley/HSI

The Canadian government is at a pivotal point in its relationship with, well, food. For the first time ever, Canada will create its own food policy.

A chance for change

Up until recently, the Canada Food Guide has been distorted by animal industry interests rather than shaped by sound nutrition science. The Guide is daring to make a shift away from emphasizing meat and dairy products. Why? Because increasingly, the scientific community and Canadians understand the importance of eating more plant-based foods and less meat—for the environment, our health, and animal welfare.

Today, factory farms cram egg-laying hens into cages so tiny that they can’t even spread their wings. Battery barns in Canada hold thousands of cages, each confining multiple birds, in tiers of two to eight cages high, with farms averaging more than 17,000 birds. Breeding pigs and veal calves are stuffed into cramped individual cages barely larger than their bodies. They can’t walk or turn around. Extreme overcrowding and unnatural conditions lead to a multitude of health problems and poor standard of living for these animals.

Take action now

There is a great risk that animal industry groups will undo the positive momentum underway with the announcement of the new policy by lobbying the federal government. The federal government wants feedback from Canadians on what changes we all would like to see.

For the sake of animal welfare, the environment and health, it’s important to add your voice during the public comment period. We’ve made filling out the two surveys easy for you!

1. Deadline, August 31st: Fill out the Food Policy for Canada survey here, using this “cheat sheet” if desired:

  • ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE FOOD: It takes significantly fewer resources to grow vegetables, fruits legumes, and whole grains rather than animal products. StatsCan reveals that steak and chicken are more expensive than beans, vegetables and fruit in Canadian grocery stores. For example, 1kg of steak is $23.65 whereas the same amount of protein-packed peanut butter is just $6.50, mushrooms at a mere $8.70, and carrots at $2.29.
  • HEALTH AND FOOD SAFETY: Plant-based foods tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fiber and packed with antioxidants—helping mitigate some of the developed world’s biggest health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
  • CONSERVE SOIL, WATER AND AIR: The animal agriculture industry is a leading cause of global warming. This is an opportunity to promote plant-based foods as a green option to reduce our carbon footprints.
  • HIGH-QUALITY FOOD: It needs to be easier for consumers to identify foods consistent with their values through product labelling—particularly for animal welfare standards. For example, Australia has successfully implemented accurate labelling for cage-free eggs and meats.

2. Deadline, August 14th: Fill out the Canada Food Guide Survey here, using this “cheat sheet” if desired:

  • PRINCIPLE 1—YES: We agree strongly with recommendations 1 and 2. Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and protein-rich foods—especially plant-based sources of protein—are important. The Guide should also include foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat, instead of foods that are high in saturated fats. Plant-based foods like avocados, nuts and legumes tend to have good fats, unlike high fat cheeses and other animal products high in saturated fat.
  • FINAL COMMENTS: We agree with Health Canada, that healthy eating recommendations should support and promote diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods because in general, they are associated with a reduced environmental impact and more health benefits. The Canada Food Guide should be an unbiased, educational resource for nutritional informational. Moving forward, there is still a great need to make healthy, plant-based foods more affordable for all Canadians.

These public consultation periods on Canada’s Food Policy and the Food Guide give Canadians an opportunity to form a more sustainable and healthy relationship with food, as well as a brighter future for the animals.

The NRG Research Group found that 95 percent of Canadians want better living conditions for meat, dairy, and egg-producing animals, even if this costs more. Thus, it is imperative that we have accurate animal welfare labelling for all animal products, in addition to improved treatment for farm animals across the country.

More you can do

In addition to making your voices heard in the shaping of Canada’s food policy and guide, Humane Society International encourages Canadians to be conscious consumers by following the Three Rs of eating: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products with plant-based foods, and “refining” our diets by avoiding products from farms with cruel practices, such as the intensive confinement of hens in cages.