Food processing industry applauds, beef and dairy push back at Canada's Food Guide

Within an hour of its release, those representing certain sectors of agriculture had their statements prepared and sent out to various media organizations. Their opinion of  Canada’s Food Guide was largely determined by where their commodity ended up on the new plate.

Dairy industry

Although Health Canada made it clear dairy was “still on the plate,” health officials  reiterated taht if a person were to choose to consume dairy they should make sure it’s low in fat and to also incorporate lots of fruits and veggies. This raised the eyebrows of the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) as they remain concerned that the updated food guide does not reflect the most recent and mounting scientific evidence available.

“While the food guide has changed, milk products continue to play a valuable role in helping Canadians make healthy-eating decisions on a daily basis,” says Isabelle Neiderer, director of nutrition and research at DairyFarmers of Canada. “The scientific evidence supporting the nutritional benefits of milk products in the promotion of bone health and prevention of chronic diseases, for instance, is stronger than ever, and new evidence continues to accumulate,” she says. “Current and emerging scientific evidence does not support a continued focus on lower fat milk products as it reveals that milk products that contain more fat are not associated with harmful health effects and could even provide benefits.”

The DFC also wants to remind consumers that milk products are a key source of six of the eight nutrients that most Canadians already fall short of: calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, and potassium.

Plant-based food industry

(Health Canada)

With the new guide having a heavy focus on plant-based foods, it comes as no surprise the Plant-Based Foods of Canada (PBFC) group welcomes the news. The group is comprised of food companies that make and market plant-based products. These companies include Beyond Meat Canada, Hain Celestial, Earth’s Own Foods, Sol Cuisine, and many others.

PBFC is a division of Foods & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) the largest trade association representing food, beverage, and consumer goods manufacturers in Canada.

“The changes we’re seeing in the updated Canada Food Guide reflect a broader societal trend towards greater consumption of plant-based foods that promises to continue in the years to come,” says Beena Goldenberg, CEO, Hain Celestial Canada. “Public health research shows that the key to better eating is changing the food environment, which means not just educating people about what they should eat but also ensuring that great tasting plant-based goods are widely available, convenient and affordable. Plant-Based Foods of Canada is well positioned to work with government and key stakeholders to make that happen.”

The group claims the increase of “flexitarian,” vegetarian, and vegan lifestyles, and the health benefits associated with these trends, as well as concerns about sustainability are putting the spotlight on plant proteins.

Meat industry

A quick look at the Food Guide plate and one can tell meat is no longer a focus. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) says lean red meat, such as beef, is rightfully acknowledged as a nutrient rich and healthy protein in the new Food Guide. However, the organization, along with the Canadian Pork Council, are quick to point out Health Canada grouped both animal protein and plant-based protein in the same category even though the two are not equivalent, as plant-based proteins lack certain amino acids (making them “incomplete” protein sources).

“The visual may have changed, but the advice to enjoy lean red meat with lots of vegetables, fruit and whole grains remains the same as previous iterations of the Food Guide,” says Chris White, CEO and president of the Canadian Meat Council. “It’s refreshing that the Food Guide is focusing on how to eat, not just what to eat.”

The CCA added that Health Canada missed the opportunity to inform Canadians of the nutritional benefits of eating lean beef as a protein source. It would be unfortunate if Canadians interpret this bias toward plant-based proteins as a signal to remove red meat from their diets.

The Cattlemen’s Association also pointed out Canadian farmers and ranchers are leaders in environmental stewardship and sustainability. Raising beef cattle in Canada accounts for 2.4 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. On a global scale, GHG emissions from Canadian beef production accounts for 0.04 per cent of global GHG emissions — one of the lowest greenhouse gas footprints in the world.

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