No appetite in Sask. for new diet: Beef and dairy industry

By Nigel Maxwell
January 17, 2019 - 4:46pm

A new report recommending a major overhaul to the world's diet, should be taken with a grain of salt, according to some officials within Saskatchewan's food industry.

The report organized by a Stockholm-based non-profit group, encourages people to limit their red meat intake to one serving a week, eggs to fewer than four per week and dairy foods to one serving a day or less. The measure, which sets a time frame of 2050, is expected to help lower the carbon footprint and also help ensure there is enough food for the world's growing population. A spokesperson for Sask. Milk told paNOW the Canadian dairy farming sector has one of the lowest environmental footprints in the world.

"Greenhouse gas emissions from the production of a litre of milk in Canada decreased by 23 per cent between 1990 and 2016, and the carbon footprint of a litre of milk produced in Canada decreased by seven per cent from 2011 to 2016," Joy Smith said in a statement.

Smith explained dairy farmers are constantly seeking ways to efficiently produce better food while reducing environmental impacts, caring responsibly for their animals and making the land better for the next generation.

"Canadian dairy production uses only a small part of Canada’s natural resources, consuming 0.02 per cent of the freshwater supply of the southern part of Canada, using less than three per cent of agricultural land despite being one of the largest agricultural sectors economically, and accounts for only 1.3 per cent of all of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

Ryder Lee, CEO of the Saskatchewan Cattleman's Association, said he is concerned anytime someone wants to throw '"shade" on the beef industry, but added he does not think the report will scare people away from eating meat.

"It's another noisy thing by people who want to tell you how to eat and frankly not build you a very good diet," he said.

Lee said beef producers have also worked hard to lower their carbon footprint, adding carbon that is coming out through the cattle, is also going down into the roots of the grassland managed by producers, and is a continuous cycle.

"You could say if you don’t eat meat that carbon won't be happening, but that's bologna because all those grass land will have something on them and by having beef cattle on there you are turning it into great, edible protein," he said.

While encouraging people to eat less meat and dairy, the report encourages the consumption of whole grains, beans, fruits and most vegetables.

Carl Potts, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Association, said peas and lentils are good for peoples' health and the environment.

"Pulses have a very positive environmental story with limited amount of nitrogen fertilizer use, the ability to fix nitrogen from the air and improves soil health," he said.

Potts said reports like the one released Thursday are an important part of the pulse sector's growth strategy.

"[Saskatchewan is] one of the world's leading production areas of these sorts of crops and I think it bodes well for new demand, especially when we look to diversify markets," he said.

On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell


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