Consumer
June, 28, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Results from the newest Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) report Canadians are consuming more of their calories from protein than they did over a decade ago. Fat consumption amongst adults increased slightly and there was a small decline in carbohydrates consumption.

According to Dr. David Ma, PhD, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph: "While there are some differences in consumption since the last survey in 2004, the data shows Canadians are generally consuming carbohydrates, fats and protein within recommended ranges. We need to eat these in the right proportions of total energy to reduce risk of chronic disease and to provide enough essential nutrients."

The report notes that for children and teenagers, the percentage of daily energy intake from protein increased one per cent (from 14.6 per cent in 2004 to 15.6 per cent in 2015). For adults, it edged up from 16.5 per cent to 17.0 per cent. This still lingers at the lower end of the acceptable range of 10 to 35 per cent of calories set by the Institute of Medicine.

"The data is encouraging as the previous national survey showed Canadians were consuming protein at the lower end of the acceptable distribution range," said Dr. Stuart Phillips, PhD, Director of the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence (PACE) and McMaster Centre for Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Research. "Protein is essential for all tissues in the body, providing amino acids that are important for growth and development. Protein is particularly important for older people to help slow muscle loss."

"Based on my research, consuming even more than the recommended amount of high quality protein, from nutrient-rich sources such as pork, beef, lamb, dairy products and eggs throughout the day, combined with regular exercise, helps prevent the loss of muscle tissue as we age," he adds.

Many Canadians consume an abundance of foods, but many do not obtain the nutrients they require for good health. Meat, for example, is a compact source of many nutrients that are essential for good health and life. These include: protein, phosphorus, zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12, thiamin, vitamin D, niacin, and riboflavin.

"Research shows that diets with increased protein and reduced carbohydrates may help prevent type 2 diabetes by facilitating weight loss through increased satiety, increased thermogenesis, and muscle retention," said Mary Ann Binnie of the International Meat Secretariat Nutrition Committee and a Canadian Meat Council spokesperson. "This is especially important given the number of Canadians diagnosed with diabetes has tripled in the past 20 years."
June 23, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - According to a recent Ipsos poll on food insecurity, health, and poverty in Canada commissioned by Community Food Centres Canada, a national nonprofit that increases access to healthy food in low-income communities and promotes food skills and civic engagement.

According to the poll, 91 per cent of Canadians think food insecurity is a persistent problem in our country, a problem that 41 per cent believe has worsened in the last decade. And Canadians want to see solutions: 74 per cent believe that government has a responsibility to take action to ensure everyone has access to healthy, affordable food.

"Canadians are telling us loud and clear that we need to do better," said Nick Saul, President and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada. "We know that the best way to reduce food insecurity is to increase people's incomes. We currently have National Food Policy and National Poverty Reduction Strategy processes unfolding in parallel at the federal level, and we need to make sure that they both speak to this issue – and to each other."

According to the PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research project, four million Canadians are food insecure. Food insecurity negatively affects physical and mental health, and costs our health-care system significantly. Lack of household income is the most important predictor of food insecurity.

Increasing access to affordable food is one of the four focus areas of the National Food Policy. The others are improving health and food safety, growing more high-quality food, and conserving our soil, water, and air.

The public consultation phase of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy, which is being led by Employment and Social Development Canada, is wrapping up at the end of June. The timing for the development of a strategy and implementation plan has not yet been announced.

"We need to ensure that reducing food insecurity and improving the lives of vulnerable Canadians stays at the forefront of both of these important conversations," says Saul. "At the same time, with so many ministries involved in the National Food Policy, there is an important opportunity to surface new solutions that can break down silos and address the complex issues affecting different parts of our food system – solutions that could include community responses to food insecurity, a national school lunch program, and support for small farmers."

The Ipsos poll also asked Canadians about areas where this type of multi-sectoral approach could be useful -- for example, addressing Canadians' declining levels of food literacy and finding innovative approaches to promoting healthier diets and reducing chronic disease.

It showed that Canadians are interested in new approaches, including solutions that would put more affordable fruits and vegetables on the plates of low-income individuals. 91 per cent of Canadians said they would support a government subsidy program that would provide fruit and vegetable vouchers to people living on low incomes as a way to address diet-related illness.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between March 29 and April 3, 2017, on behalf of Community Food Centres Canada. For this survey, a sample of 1,002 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online via Ipsos' online panel.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. The poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had all Canadians been polled.
June 12, 2017, St. John’s - Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, Joël Lightbound, announced that Health Canada is launching a public consultation on restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

The proposed approach aims to protect children from marketing tactics that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods, and support families in making healthier food choices.

In addition, Health Canada is launching a public consultation on the revision of Canada's Food Guide, which will be used to develop new consumer messages, tools and resources.

This follows broad consultation on the Food Guide in 2016, which resulted in nearly 20,000 submissions during the first consultation in fall 2016 on the revision of Canada's Food Guide, and are summarized in a What We Heard Report.

The announcement was made at the Dietitians of Canada national conference in St. John's, Newfoundland. Both consultations run from June 10 to July 25, 2017.

These initiatives are part of the Government's Healthy Eating Strategy. In addition, the Healthy Eating Strategy outlines how Health Canada will achieve the Government's commitments on sodium, trans fats, sugars and food colours.

The Healthy Eating Strategy is a component of the Vision for a Healthy Canada, which focuses on healthy eating, healthy living and a healthy mind. I‎t is complementary to A Food Policy for Canada, which, as one of its four themes, seeks to increase Canadians' ability to make healthy and safe food choices.‎
June 5, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Canadians each consumed 32.5 kg (per capita) of chicken in 2016 resulting in the highest level of chicken consumption in Canada ever.

This confirms that chicken is the favourite of Canadian grocery shoppers and continues to be an important part of the nutritious meals they feed to their families.

Chicken has been the first choice of Canadians for over a decade, when chicken per capita (per person) consumption passed beef for first place, and it has remained in first place ever since.

"Chicken is number one for Canadians who want a healthy and nutritious choice for themselves and their families," said Benoît Fontaine, Chair of Chicken Farmers of Canada. "Our farmers are proud to raise high-quality, nutritious chicken for Canadians. We have been doing this for generations and it's good to know that our hard work is recognized."

2016 was one of the most successful years ever for the chicken industry, with production increasing by 4 per cent to a total of 1.148 billion kg of fresh, nutritious Canadian chicken for consumers.

Trust is a big reason behind the ongoing success of the Canadian chicken industry.

In a recent survey, 93 per cent of Canadians said they prefer to feed their families food raised by Canadian farmers—that support is behind the new "Raised by a Canadian Farmer" brand logo. Now Canadians can have confidence in knowing where their food comes from by looking for the brand—and trust that it was raised safely by a Canadian farmer.

"We have a responsibility to our consumers, to keep their food safe, to protect them, and to humanely and carefully raise the animals we grow," added Fontaine. "Canadian chicken farms are run by hardworking men and women and the birds are being raised to the highest standards for food safety and animal care."

Canadian chicken farmers work hard each day to provide the best possible care for their birds, and to ensure their health and welfare.

Canadian consumers have high expectations of their farmers, from the assurance of a steady supply to ensuring excellence and best practices in animal care and food safety. Canada's chicken farmers are proud to deliver on these expectations, with every flock.

Chicken Farmers of Canada is responsible for ensuring that our 2,800 farmers produce the right amount of fresh, safe, high-quality chicken and that our farmer's views are taken into account when important agriculture and policy decisions are made.
June 5, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - Food matters. Canadians make choices every day about food that directly impacts their health, environment, and communities. The Government of Canada is committed to helping put more affordable, safe, healthy, food on tables across the country, while protecting the environment.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, announced today that the Government of Canada is launching consultations to support the development of A Food Policy for Canada.

An online survey is now open at www.canada.ca/food-policy and Canadians are encouraged to share their input to help shape a food policy that will cover the entire food system, from farm to fork. Canadians can share their views on four major themes
  • Increasing access to affordable food;
  • Improving health and food safety;
  • Conserving our soil, water, and air; and
  • Growing more high-quality food.
A Food Policy for Canada will be the first-of-its-kind for the Government of Canada, and is a new step in the government’s mandate to taking a collaborative and broad-based approach to addressing food-related issues in Canada.

The online consultation is the first of a number of engagement activities planned with a wide range of participants to inform the development of a food policy.

Feedback from the consultations will provide the federal government with a better understanding of Canadians’ priorities when it comes to food-related issues. The results will help inform key elements of a food policy, including a long-term vision and identifying actions to take in the near term.
May 31, 2017 - Much is made of the growth of vegetarianism in North America, but domestic meat consumption data indicates that most people in Canada and the United States still have a taste for beef, pork and poultry.

Jim Long of Genesus Genetics, a pig genetics company, often has interesting observations about the pork industry around the world.

In a recent post, he noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s red meat and poultry disappearance report projected that domestic meat disappearance would rise to 88.751 billion pounds, up four billion lb. from 2015.

That is great news for anyone who works in the meat and livestock business, including Long.

“Anyone who lives in the fantasy world that vegetarianism is taking over needs to give their head a shake. Meat lovers are ever increasing their consumption,” Long wrote.

On a per person basis, red meat and poultry disappearance at the retail level is projected to rise to 217.8 lb., up 3.2 lb. from 2016 and up 6.7 from 2015. Disappearance has a specific meaning, but for our purposes it means consumption. READ MORE 
May 30, 2017 - The connection between eggs and heart health has been studied for decades. When examined all at once, what does this science reveal? Dr. Dominik Alexander sought to find out by performing a comprehensive meta-analysis of egg and heart health studies from around the world.

Join Dr. Alexander, Principal Epidemiologist with EpidStat Institute, for this webinar as he presents findings from his meta-analysis of studies exploring egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Collectively, these studies showed that up to one egg daily was associated with a small reduction in stroke risk while regular egg intake was not associated with either increasing or decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease.

Dominik D. Alexander, PhD, MSPH, is the Principal Epidemiologist with EpidStat Institute based in Ann Arbour, Michigan. He has extensive experience in health research methodology, meta-analysis, and disease causation, particularly in the conceptualization, design, analysis, and interpretation of epidemiologic studies.

Dr. Alexander has published on a diverse range of topics and types of studies, including original epidemiologic research, qualitative reviews, systematic weight-of-evidence assessments, and quantitative meta-analyses.

Because of his expertise in research methodology, Dr. Alexander has served as principal investigator on numerous projects involving a wide variety of exposures and health outcomes.

His research areas include: occupational and environmental exposures, such as asbestos, benzene, trichloroethylene, solvents, pesticides, arsenic, and dioxin; community health studies and cluster investigations involving air, water, and soil exposures; clinical, pharmacoepidemiology, and medical device studies including clinical trial design and support.

In addition, Dr. Alexander has extensive experience in nutritional epidemiology and has conducted systematic reviews and meta-analyses of dietary and nutritional factors and cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and body composition. His work in this area has involved studies of dietary patterns, intake of whole foods, and dietary supplements, such as meat and fat intake, dairy and egg consumption, breakfast eating, multivitamin and mineral supplements, fish oil, caffeine, and infant formula.

For more information on the upcoming webinar, visit: https://www.canadianpoultrymag.com/events/webinar-eggs-and-heart-health-65

May 18, 2017, Adelaide, Aus. - People choose to buy free-range or cage-free eggs because they believe they taste better and are better quality than eggs from caged hens, new research published today suggests.

In a study, conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide and published in Anthrozoös, the journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology, the most often reported motivations for buying free-range eggs included reasons such as the eggs were of better quality, more nutritious, and safer to eat, and that they allowed purchasers to avoid “industrialized” food.

Despite participants describing caged-egg production as “cruel”, they did not tend to emphasize welfare reasons as critical for their purchases of free-range eggs. Instead, participants felt that the free-range chickens were “happier” and thus produced a better quality of product.

This finding suggests that consumers are more likely to purchase a food product if it is both “ethical” and viewed as being of better quality, rather than for ethical reasons alone.

The study also revealed that there were high levels of awareness among participants of caged-egg production when compared to other types of animal farming.

In addition, participants who bought free-range or cage-free eggs did not necessarily tend to buy meat with ethical claims, in part because the price difference is much smaller in eggs in comparison to different types of meat products. Some people produced their own free-range eggs by keeping a few hens.

To collect the data for the study, the researchers conducted focus groups and shopping mall interviews with 73 participants (of mixed age and gender) and asked about their food purchasing habits.

Then they categorized the different reasons that people gave for their decisions to understand why people choose the food they do, especially when there are ethical issues and competing values involved.

Lead author Dr. Heather J. Bray from the School of Humanities and the Food Values Research Group at the University of Adelaide commented, “Taste and quality are strong motivations for purchasing and may be part of the reason why people are prepared to pay a higher price. More importantly these findings suggest that consumers think about animal welfare in a much broader way than we previously thought, and in particular they believe that better welfare is connected to a better quality product.”

The authors recommend that more research is needed including studies to further understand consumer motivations behind purchasing products with ethical production claims, in order to explore whether changes in production methods or labelling would be supported by consumers.

This work was funded by the Australian Research Council.

Read the full article online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08927936.2017.1310986
May 5, 2017, Toronto, Ont.- A recent national survey revealed 70 per cent of Canadian mothers are unaware that babies six to 12 months need 11 mg of iron per dayi – that's nearly 40 per cent more than is required of a full-grown man.

The startling statistic was uncovered just in time for World Iron Awareness Week taking place May 1-7 to encourage education and understanding surrounding the importance of iron consumption at every age and stage.

The Canada-wide infant feeding survey was commissioned to help inform parents how and when to introduce babies to iron-rich foods.

Based on survey findings, Canadian moms are seeking infant feeding information from a wide variety of sources including doctors and pediatricians, online resources, baby care books, magazines and of course, friends and family.

While moms of infants are aware that iron is an essential nutrient, there is confusion surrounding when parents should be introducing iron-rich solid foods like meat into their baby's diet.

In 2012, Health Canada released new guidelines advising parents to offer their six-month old infants meat, fish, poultry or meat alternatives two or more times a day, on a daily basis.

While other foods may offer significant amounts of iron, meat provides our bodies with heme iron – a more easily absorbed variation of the nutrient. Adding meat to a meal also helps absorb up to four times the amount of iron from other foods like green vegetables, bread and cerealsiii.

Only about half of moms (55 per cent) surveyed were aware that heme iron found in meats is better absorbed than other dietary iron, or that iron deficiency anemia in infants is associated with irreversible developmental delays (51 per cent).
April 24, 2017, New York, NY- The U.S. government's latest report card on food poisoning suggests that a germ commonly linked to raw milk and poultry is surpassing salmonella at the top of the culprit list.

The report counts cases in only 10 states for nine of the most common causes of foodborne illness, but is believed to be a good indicator of national food poisoning trends.

The most common bug last year was campylobacter (pronounced: kam-pih-loh-BAK'-tur). It's mostly a problem in unpasteurized dairy products, but also is seen in contaminated chicken, water, and produce. Salmonella was number one for the last 20 years but last year moved down to number two. Other causes like listeria, shigella (shih-GEHL'-uh) and E. coli trail behind.

Last year, there were no significant changes in new case rates for most kinds of food poisoning, compared to the previous three years. The new report tallied about 24,000 illnesses and 98 deaths in the 10 states. The CDC estimates that one in six Americans get sick from contaminated food each year, though most cases are not reported.

There's been a continued decline in illnesses from what used to be the most common strain of salmonella -- called Salmonella Typhimurium. That's possibly because of vaccinations of chicken flocks and tighter regulations. READ MORE
Chicago, IL, April 10, 2017 – Chicken remains consumers’ protein of choice while turkey shows room to grow, according to Technomic’s recently-released 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report.

Chicken consumption has been bolstered over the past few years by increases at breakfast and snacking occasions. Meanwhile, turkey consumption is still centered on the holidays, though 39 per cent of consumers who eat turkey indicate they are more likely now than two years ago to eat turkey during the rest of the year.

“Chicken’s adaptability will be on full display over the next few years as operators increasingly highlight this healthy protein across dayparts”, explains Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic. “For turkey, operators will work to menu this protein in a way that is new and intriguing, but still leverages turkey’s positioning as a familiar and healthy standby.”

Key takeaways from the report include:
  • 47 per cent of consumers say it’s important for restaurants to be transparent about where they source their poultry
  • 45 per cent of consumers who eat chicken strongly agree that restaurants should offer more chicken entrees with ethnic flavors
  • 38 per cent of consumers who eat turkey would like restaurants to offer turkey as a protein choice for a wider variety of entrees
The University of Guelph has received $76.6 million from the federal government to start a “digital revolution” in food and agriculture.

The government is investing in U of G’s Food From Thought research project, which will use high-tech information systems to help produce enough food for a growing human population while sustaining the Earth’s ecosystems.

The funding, announced by Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph, on behalf of Kirsty Duncan, minister of science, will come from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), which supports world-leading research at universities and colleges.

It’s the largest single federal research investment in U of G history.

“This will position Canada as a leader in sustainable food production,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino, adding the project will help farmers produce more food on less land using fewer inputs.

“Our faculty, staff and students will have opportunities to participate in innovative discovery and to play a role in tackling one of the world’s greatest challenges: how to sustainably feed our growing population.”

Longfield added: “The University of Guelph has a long history of collaborating across Canada and globally to contribute to understanding complex challenges. The global food supply will require the University’s unique leadership skills that bring together agricultural expertise, big data, environmental science, business and civil society. Today’s funding announcement will give Canada a huge step forward to become a global leader in food.”

Food From Thought will create novel tools for producing more and safer food while also protecting the environment.

“It is not just how much food we produce but also the way we produce it that will be key in the next century,” said Prof. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research), who is the institutional lead for Food From Thought and a plant genomicist in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

New technology and agricultural practices must enhance biodiversity, produce safe, nutritious food, and improve animal welfare and human health, he said.

U of G is well-placed to lead this project, Campbell said. “We are Canada’s food university, with a 150-year legacy in agri-food and a reputation for innovation and commitment. We also have the capacity, with world-class researchers and facilities, and strong partnerships with government and industry.”

Geography professor Evan Fraser, scientific director of Food From Thought and director of U of G’s Food Institute, said launching a digital revolution will require improved understanding of the complex interplay between farming practices, the genetic potential of our crops and livestock, and the environment.

“This is essential if we are to realize the potential offered by our emerging ability to collect vast amounts of data and to develop information management systems,” he said.

Food From Thought will bring together experts to generate and commercialize knowledge, and to inform agri-food policy-makers and practices from farm management to global conservation planning.

The initiative will offer new teaching and research opportunities, and will focus on training the next generation of agri-food leaders through fellowships and graduate student positions.

More than $1 million will be available for annual research awards and competitions intended to develop innovations for sustainable food systems.

Within Food From Thought, researchers will work on key scientific missions including:

Expanding use of DNA barcoding technology developed at U of G to identify food fraud, food-borne ailments and invasive pests, and to improve environmental impact assessments;

Using “big data” on farms to reduce pesticide use, monitor watershed health and identify crops suited to the effects of climate change; and

Using information management systems to help track emerging infectious disease threats to livestock and control pathogens in the food supply.

Food From Thought includes partnerships with academic institutions around the globe, numerous government agencies, and industry and innovation centres.

One key partner is IBM Canada, which will be involved in everything from research collaborations to cognitive and data analytics tools and training to secure cloud-based storage.

“IBM shares the scientific vision of Food From Thought: ensuring that we sustainably, resiliently and safely increase production while enhancing ecosystem services and livestock health and welfare using data-driven approaches,” said Sanjeev Gill, research executive at IBM Canada.

Food From Thought will be one of U of G’s largest and most inclusive research projects, spanning all seven colleges. It will be led by 10 principal investigators from across campus.

This funding announcement was part of a $900-million competition lasting several months and involving a review panel of Canadian and international scientific experts. This is the second CFREF competition since 2014.

 

 

The revelation that a bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort was found in a Pennsylvania woman prompted a flurry of media activity in late May. Increased consumer concern on an already-sensitive topic is understandable in light of such headlines as, “Nightmare Superbug Shows Up in the United States” and “Infection Raises Specter of Superbugs Resistant to All Antibiotics.”

The Washington Post conducted a Q&A with an infectious disease doctor at the University of Pittsburgh who tried to put the development into perspective. He said, “While certainly concerning and something to keep a close eye on from a public health point of view, there is no evidence that this is a widespread problem at this time. Even in the rare event that you get sick from this bacteria, there are treatment options available.”

Since the bacteria has also been detected in pigs, the Post asked about food safety concerns. The doctor stated there is no risk as long as meat is properly handled and cooked to the recommended temperature.

There’s growing consumer concern and rising pressure on the food system about the use of antibiotics in food animals. Antibiotic resistance is a serious issue and one farms and food companies are taking seriously, but the connection between antibiotics used in animals raised for food and the risk of human antibiotic failure is a complex issue not easily distilled for widespread understanding. Several things must happen before resistant bacteria from a farm can affect people:

  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria must be present in an animal when it leaves a farm
  • The bacteria must survive sanitation steps during the packaging process
  • The meat must be undercooked, enabling bacteria to survive
  • The bacteria must cause human illness
  • The ill person must receive medical attention and the antibiotic therapy must involve the same class of antibiotic used on the farm
  • The patient must get worse or fail to recover due to the resistant infection

There’s also the perception that antibiotic resistance results from eating meat containing antibiotic residue, but there are strict federal laws in place to prevent unsafe residues in meat. By law, since the 1950’s, the FDA strictly audits and enforces that unsafe levels of antibiotics may not be present in meat before it enters the food supply.

Leading drug companies have recognized the concern about the resistance issue and are making antibiotics available only for treatment and prevention of disease — not growth promotion. Beginning next year in the U.S., antibiotics important to human medicine will only be available under a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), which is essentially a prescription from a veterinarian.

There are unanswered questions on the link between animal antibiotic use and human resistance and the issue is still being studied. Until those questions are conclusively answered, the best source of information is sound science in the form of peer-reviewed and published studies. Dr. Peter Davies, BVSC, PhD, professor of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota, says, “There are almost no documented clinical cases where antibiotic resistance was unequivocally tied to animal antibiotic use. So while the risk is not zero, in my opinion, it is extremely low.”

Animal antibiotics must be used responsibly to minimize agriculture’s contribution to antibiotic resistance. But much of the current discussion about antibiotic use is highly polarized, pitting commercial interests against public health interests. It’s important to remember that preventing disease and treating sick animals through the responsible use of antibiotics is the ethical thing to do.

Reprinted with permission from the Center for Food Integrity (CFI).  CFI’s vision is to lead the public discussion to build trust in today’s food system and facilitate dialog with the food system to create better alignment with consumer expectations. For more information, visit: www.foodintegrity.org

 

 

 

 

Sustainability – making sure that food is produced in such a way that it can be produced at the same quality for generations to come – is something increasing numbers of consumers are looking for. In particular, seafood, poultry, egg and meat products seem to be of strong interest to many members of the general public, and therefore also of significant interest to the grocery distribution industry.

“Retailers believe that animal products that they sell must be safe and of high quality, as well as produced in a sustainable and humane manner,” says Nathalie St-Pierre, vice-president (Sustainability) and vice-president Québec at the Retail Council of Canada (RCC). She notes that there are significant implications and complexities in making changes to how animals are raised – including animal well-being, socio-economic and environmental considerations – and this is why the Council continues to work with many parties through constructive dialogue and shared objectives to bring about the best outcomes.

Some examples of food sustainability issues that RCC is working on include the neonicotinoid insecticide concerns (involving CropLife Canada, Flowers Canada Growers and beekeeper associations) as well as seafood sourcing and related labour issues (involving Greenpeace and other parties).

A COMBINATION
To get a sense of the big picture of how food retailers are currently approaching companies with regard to sustainability, we asked St-Pierre if they’re mostly dealing with companies on an individual basis or if they’re creating collective sustainability criteria together. It seems to be a combination of both.

“Retailers often work on these issues in a pre-competitive fashion,” she explains. “However, when it comes to actual sourcing, this is part of the retailers’ individual strategies and we do not comment on such matters.”

SUSTAINABILITY AT LOBLAW
Let’s look at one retailer’s individual strategy – in this case the largest food retailer in Canada. Loblaw owns more than 20 different store chains across the country, and with the recent acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart, now operates over 2,300 individual stores.

The firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach includes five pillars that govern the way it does business in achieving its overall purpose of “Helping Canadians Live Life Well.” These pillars, which all relate to sustainability, are respect for the environment, waste reduction, energy reduction, packaging improvement and sourcing product ingredients with integrity.

The Loblaw “pillars of sustainability” have stemmed from the recognition that customers are not only looking to understand where their food comes from, but to understand the health and sourcing implications of the ingredients in their food.

“On any given day,” says Melanie Agopian, Loblaw Senior Director of Sustainability, “we may encounter questions as diverse as the degree of sustainability of a fishery that a seafood ingredient is sourced from, to whether our pork products are sourced from a loose housing environment, to the right approach to sodium in our diets. As a retailer, we need to have the answers to these various questions ready, and also ensure we advocate for consumers. That means we need to be very familiar with the issues customers care about, and our supply chain.”

 To ensure Loblaw understands their customers’ perspectives, the company does things like conduct an annual survey. Recent survey results show that in general, half of the respondents chose environmental, sustainability and animal welfare aspects of their food as high in importance, followed by worker’s rights, food choices, waste reduction and local sourcing. However, with regard specifically to groceries, survey participants placed priority on local sourcing, healthier food choices, packaging reduction and animal welfare.

To drive change in response to these concerns, Loblaw puts its corporate policy in action through collaborations with the Retail Council of Canada. In addition, a key driver for change at Loblaw is the firm’s leadership with their private label products (‘President’s Choice’ and ‘No Name’ are Canada’s #1 and #2 food brands respectively).

“Our customers expect higher standards with our private label brands and these high standards are a mechanism to drive loyalty and trust,” Agopian explains. “We often look to lead and differentiate by innovating with our brands, and sustainability work is included in that.”

Through these labels, Loblaw has a close relationship with their vendors, relationships in which the firm can partner and collaborate to find creative solutions on important sustainability issues. Agopian adds that in their effort to be as credible and science-based as possible, they use globally-recognized 3rd party certifications when appropriate. “We’ve seen from our own data that customers significantly prefer sustainability supported by [these] certifications,” she explains, “and we also partner with academic and scientific advisors on key files.”

SOURCING
In making their private label brands more sustainable, Loblaw is beginning with a close examination of the raw ingredient sourcing of seafood, palm oil, cocoa, coffee and beef. They are also working to continuously improve packaging with guidelines for weight reduction, using renewable or recycled content, and working on overall package recyclability/reusability.

In terms of egg and poultry products, Agopian says animal welfare is a key sustainability focus. Loblaw is committed to expanding the President’s Choice (PC) Blue Menu Omega Free-Run Eggs offering in order to provide further choice to customers. The company is also expanding the full PC “Free From” range of products, which is meat and poultry raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones (noting that in Canada, all poultry and pork is raised without the use of hormones). Additionally, the company is an associate member of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and supports the implementation of the NFACC Codes as they become available.

SUSTAINABILITY OUTLOOK
Just where sustainability issues are headed in the future for retailers is hard to say. Will it become mandatory for most (or even all) companies to satisfy retailers that their products are produced in a sustainable way? Which products will receive the most attention going forward in terms of sustainability concerns? While it’s impossible for anyone to predict the future, St-Pierre believes the public will lead the way. “The retailers’ first priority is to give consumers the products they want,” she notes. “Thus, consumers will define the next trends in sustainability. If we look at the current consumers’ demands, it is difficult to judge if, going forward, sustainability and animal welfare will become a standard for products, or if they will only serve a certain type of consumer.”

St-Pierre adds that while ‘green’ factors do influence many consumers’ purchase decisions, they trail price and quality by a significant margin. “Still, analysts feel that awareness of ‘green’ products has been growing and will continue to grow, though they note that awareness does not necessarily translate to interest, especially if prices remain high,” she says. “On the other hand, retailers often announce commitments of their own to ‘green’ initiatives: buying locally- grown/produced products, sustainable fishing and sourcing, fair trade and safety of workers, commitments for the health and wellness of animals.” She points out that retailers have had an important role in the reduction of plastic bags use, as well as a significant impact in the development and implementation of many types of recycling programs across Canada.

Food Retailers
Here is some of the sustainability work being done by food retailers who operate in Canada:

Metro’s (Ontario and Quebec) sustainable fisheries policy, for example, aims at providing fresh or frozen, wild and farmed seafood to customers.

Sobeys also targets seafood in its sustainability efforts, fully supporting and embracing sustainable seafood certification programs and making a commitment to “fix the worst [fishery concerns] first.”  

Walmart Canada is also committed to selling sustainably-managed seafood products.

IKEA cooperates with World Wildlife Fund, Save the Children, UNICEF and many others on sustainability projects. All coffee sold at IKEA is third-party certified to meet social and environmental standards. IKEA’s food suppliers must agree to work to reduce waste and emissions to air, ground and water, handle, store and dispose of hazardous waste in an environmentally safe manner, contribute to the recycling and reuse of materials and products, and more. 

 

 

February 19, 2015 - The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) – an panel of experts tasked with developing recommendations about what Americans should eat – has submitted its report to the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA), which will publish the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year. One of the key recommendations is that consumers should take sustainability into account, eating less meat and more plant-based foods.  Foodnavigator-usa.com reports

 

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