Dairy farm concerned with changes to Canada food guide

By Scott Roblin
January 30, 2019 - 5:41pm Updated: January 30, 2019 - 6:58pm


CYPRESS COUNTY, AB – Canada’s brand new food guide is continuing to generate discussion across the country, in what’s the first major overhaul of the document in over a decade.

Hatview Dairy Farm southwest of Medicine Hat continues to run at full steam, even as the new food guide is backing away from milk and dairy products.

Something that co-owner Gerald Weiss said isn’t unexpected, but is a bit of a let down.

“I had some foreshadowing of what might be happening, but I was disappointed that it came through that way,” said Weiss.

The revamped food guide has eliminated the milk and dairy food group, which was a deliberate choice according to federal health minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor.

“It puts more focus on what, when, and how we eat,” said Petitpas-Taylor. “And, less on food groups and servings.”

Dairy products have been grouped together with meat and legumes to form a new protein category, which Health Canada suggests should take up one quarter of your plate.

However, dietitian Sabina Valentine said she has concerns that the importance of calcium might be overlooked.

“Women for example, between the ages of 19 and 50, need 1,000 milligrams per day which is two to three servings of dairy from the old Canada Food Guide,” said Valentine.

“You would have to eat eight cups of spinach to have an equivalent amount of calcium as one cup of milk,” said Weiss.

Weiss said he doesn’t believe the changes will overly impact his operation, but added the real change could come in more structured environments such as schools and seniors centres.

“For our seniors and our institutions where they have to prepare stuff based on the food guide, this could cause some problems for those adults living in those institutions as well,” he said.

The Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce has also heard concerns regarding the changes, as executive director Lisa Kowalchuk said they’ve put out calls to all their beef and dairy members in the area.

“We've reached out to all of our ag members to find out what their perspectives are,” said Kowalchuk. “So, we're looking forward to hearing back.”

Health Canada is still calling low-fat milk, yogurt, and kefir good examples of protein, but is also advocating for smaller portion sizes of both dairy and meat.

Weiss said he’s hoping to see the best of both worlds moving forward, in Canadians making healthy food choices while also supporting dairy farmers across the country.

“I think a lot Canadians still recognize that dairy is important, and I think we'll continue to use it efficiently and effectively,” he said.

Meanwhile, the federal government also announced this week an investment of $2.7 million towards the Dairy Farmers of Canada to support its proAction quality assurance program.

Among the future uses of the money, the Dairy Farmers of Canada are planning to launch an environmental sustainability strategy in the coming years.

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