New Canadian food guide downplays role of farmers

The dietary structure’s shift undermines local economies  

Olivia argues cutting meat out of the food guide will hurt local farmers.
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The new Canadian food guide fails to acknowledge the importance of where our food is coming from.

Canada’s food guide received a long-awaited overhaul on Jan. 22. It encourages a healthy balance between whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and protein foods. Unlike its older version, the new recommendations see three focused food groups instead of four, clustering milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives into an all-encompassing protein group.

Although the modified group includes animal products such as red meat and eggs in its description, it emphasizes plant-based proteins. In doing so, the new guide fails to reference the value of where our food is sourced from. 

Consuming meat from giant factory farms undoubtedly contributes to global warming, but by not supporting meat consumption in general, the food guide undermines all meat producers.

Local farms are a far less harmful alternative to major meat processing corporations. They create diversity in an otherwise homogenized food system, and provide people with farmers markets and areas of land to break up house development landscapes. 

Farms that use sustainable practices such as crop rotation and organic manure as fertilizer avoid destructive environmental practices. They also avoid the emissions of major machines and reduce emissions from transportation of livestock, both of which contribute to the agricultural industry’s carbon footprint.

Landscape diversity is essential for ecosystems to survive. Local, organic farms, which are host to insects and other organisms such as bees, help conserve and restore biodiversity in agricultural areas. The recent changes in the food guide may help promote healthier eating habits, but they fail to consider sustainability in our environment and how local meat production plays a part in that.

My dad runs our family farm. He’s had a connection to the life and death of his animals for years. He tends to them every day. His routine doesn’t allow for sick days, holidays, or emergency leave. And he does it all for the proper care and treatment of livestock.

My dad creates life, treats illness, and is devoted to the care of his animals. He provides them with a fruitful life and a purposeful, painless death.

When Canada’s food guide advises the country to cut out meat-based protein forms, people like him are lumped in with remorseless meat corporations.

With these considerations in mind, the food guide should include an option to support local farmers. Compared to the abhorrent animal and environmental conditions in factory farms, local farmers offer an ethical way to consume meat.

Some might argue all producers and eaters of meat are making an unhealthy and anti-environment choice. But this narrative simply isn’t true for those who eat locally sourced meat.

In some cases, the food guide encourages consumers to support supposedly green corporations when they could be eating local unprocessed food.

Due to widely used business practices, the agriculture sector is the world’s third greatest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

But the agricultural industry isn’t completely against sustainability—not all meat we consume is detrimental to the environment. Local meat is nutrient dense and an equally inexpensive complete protein source.

That said, plant-based alternatives can provide complete sources of essential nutrients, but they often come at higher price. For students on a budget, a plant-based diet may not be economically feasible.

I’m not preaching anti-veganism. But knowing where our food is coming from can make all the difference if you’re eating to be healthy or environmentally conscious.

Local meat provides an outlet to feel connected to where we live. It can foster a culture of neighbourly relationships within a community and the greater population.

And being conscious of where our meals are sourced is easier than some people realize. There are entire blogs dedicated to making us aware of our local options.

The Grizzly Grill, for instance, has a diverse menu with dishes crafted from locally grown produce and meat. Pig & Olive Premium Market provides meat and produce from the greater Kingston area.  

Reducing the national carbon footprint by reducing meat consumption isn’t a bad idea, but it doesn’t mean we should abandon meat altogether.

Canada’s modified food guide should’ve accommodated for locally sourced meat. If it had, it wouldn’t just have been in the interest of promoting healthy eating habits—but the economy and environment as well.

Olivia Sisson is a third-year health studies major.

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