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Canadian-Produced Food – The Quality You Want, Right at Home!

Young couple eating breakfast at home.

One of the best ways to support the local economy is by choosing to buy food produced right here in Canada. There are also other benefits in choosing food produced right here at home.  For instance, food produced and grown here meets very high standards of production. Consumers also generally benefit from shorter travel times from farm to table, which means maximum flavour and freshness, too.

Nothing says “quality” better than Canadian

In Canada, we’re fortunate that the safety of our food supply is highly regulated. In fact, our food supply is considered to be among the safest in the world. Consumers can feel confident about the safety and quality of the food they purchase in Canada.

But Canadian quality goes beyond food safety considerations.  Did you know that many programs and standards are in place in Canada to regulate several aspects of our food production starting at the farm? Many Canadian agricultural sectors also have on-farm assurance programs that set the benchmarks for food safety, animal care and sustainability practices.

Such is the case for Canadian milk, which is produced with some of the world’s most rigorous standards. Dairy farmers adhere to provincially regulated milk quality standards to produce the highest quality milk. At the same time, they must also follow the comprehensive requirements of proAction© an on-farm quality assurance program which outlines high production standards in several areas including food safety, milk quality, animal care and sustainability, among others. The Food Safety module of proAction is also recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Ensuring the safety of Canadian milk

Dairy farmers are licensed and inspected by their provincial regulatory authorities. All milk is sampled when it is picked up at the farm, and the milk from each truck is then tested at processing plants as a final level of assurance. It’s also good to know that Canadian milk is produced without the use of artificial growth hormones.

Choosing local

For most Canadians, milk is a ‘local’ food. Dairy farms are spread out across the country and in every province, so the Canadian milk found in major cities typically comes from farms within 200 kilometres.

Caring for animals

Providing the best possible care for their animals comes naturally to farmers because of their love for working with animals. Human-animal interactions are important on the farm. Stringent codes of practice for animal production have been developed under the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), an organization that brings together animal welfare groups, governments, enforcement agencies, academics, experts and groups representing farmers. These intervenors all have a common interest and desire to advance farm animal care in Canada. Each of the Codes become a reference for government regulations and are at the heart of on-farm assurance programs.  In the case of dairy farms, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle is the reference for government regulations and for the Animal Care module of proAction.

The proAction program includes specific targets for animal health, care, and comfort, and outlines high standards for everything from housing and feed to medical care and training. The program also includes on-farm cattle assessments to help identify areas of strength and potential areas for improvement for each farm. Under proAction, farmers demonstrate their commitment to animal care, so Canadians can be confident that the milk they enjoy is produced in a socially responsible way and that farmers are dedicated to the well-being of their animals.

Preserving our Resources

Protecting our environmental legacy is of growing interest to Canadians across the country and it is an important focus of Canadian dairy farmers too. In Canada, dairy farms are typically passed down from generation to generation. Doing more with less, improving productivity, reducing waste, and managing resources responsibly are some of the ways dairy farmers are working to preserve our resources.

While there are government regulations covering some aspects of environmental farm stewardship, this is augmented in the milk production sector through the Environment module of proAction which outlines a number of best practices in sustainability, including manure and wastewater management. At the same time, dairy farmers continue to adopt technologies such as solar panels and biodigesters, as well as more detailed strategies for manure and water management. Each farm is taking different steps, but all of these measures add up to make a difference in the overall environmental footprint of dairy farms.

Let’s not forget too that, around the world, dairy cows and other ruminants often utilize land not suitable for growing crops, they upcycle food waste and other plants and by-products that are inedible for humans and transform them into highly nutritious foods. Manure also makes a great natural fertilizer for agricultural soils, reducing the need for chemical-based fertilizers. 

Reducing our environmental footprint

Today, Canadian milk production makes up about 1% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Over the years, dairy farmers have made great gains in reducing emissions, land use, and water conservation thanks to investments in research, advances in agricultural technology, and the sector’s commitment to continuing improvement. From 1990 to 2019, Canadian dairy farmers reduced the carbon footprint of a litre of milk by 24 per cent through improved management practices, according to data from Environment Canada. As a result, the carbon footprint of Canadian milk is less than half the global average on a per-litre basis.

Towards an even more sustainable future

In February 2022, Dairy Farmers of Canada announced a goal for the dairy farm sector in Canada to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the year 2050. This is a continuation of the ongoing efforts related to the environmental stewardship of Canadian dairy farmers and it aligns with the Government of Canada’s goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, and with international commitments as well, such as the Paris Agreement.

Reaching net-zero will be achieved through emissions reduction on the farm, lower-intensity energy use and the removal or sequestration of GHG on the farm. Other strategies will also be applied by dairy farmers to increase their use of regenerative agriculture practices, which results in healthier, more fertile soil and land and improved water quality.

So when you choose Canadian milk products, you encourage the tremendous work of dairy farmers across the country who work to make a low-carbon future a reality.