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Why Are Canadians Eating Less Meat?

A recent study suggests that Canada's largest industry is being effected by everything from the economy, to an aging population, to trade sanctions with Russia.
Photo via Flickr user Bryce Edwards

Between peameal bacon, Montreal smoked meat, and Alberta beef, there is no shortage of animal flesh to feast on in the Great North.

But based on a recent report, Canadians do not seem to be indulging in the wonderful array of protein before them. Last week, the Conference Board of Canada released its food service industry outlook for 2015, and it's pretty bleak.

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Aside from having the most bland name ever, the Conference Board of Canada is a not-for-profit research group which works with government to apply research and make economic forecasts. Their Summer 2015 report projects 1 per cent growth in Canada's food service sector and a continual decline in meat consumption. In order to explain these trends they homed in on three main factors: the job market, materials costs, and tourism.

First, in terms of employment, the Conference Board found that Canadian consumers consider their job prospects to be bleak, which may "limit their willingness to spend at restaurants." Secondly, despite a recent drop in widely-used commodities like grain and oilseed products, they will only "partially offset higher prices for industry inputs, including meat products, seafood, and fruits and vegetables."

According to Statistics Canada, disposable income climbing over the last 15 years but annual per-capita meat consumption has been decreasing just as steadily. For instance, pork and beef consumption are down 31 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively. Michael Burt, a Conference Board of Canada economist who spoke with the Globe and Mail said that economic factors weren't the only ones weighing on Canada's food industry.

Social factors like immigration, religion, age, and changing attitudes towards red meat are also having a big impact on the popularity of beef and chicken. "The growing number of people whose religion forbids or restricts meat consumption, and aging diners forgoing red meat for health reasons," Burt told the Globe.


This could explain the 11 per cent increase in leaner chicken, but with pork and beef also continuously reaching all-time highs, it's impossible to rule out the economic factors—or political factors—for that matter. Last month, the Canada Eurasia Business Association claimed that the Canadian meat industry lost $500 million because of anti-Russia sanctions that have been imposed on a country that was once a $2.3 billion trade partner.

The one bright spot in the Conference Board's report, which looked at short-term and medium-term profitability in the food industry, was tourism. The Conference Board projects that the rising number of international visitors to the Great North will "support spending on food services."

With the US dollar stronger than ever, the time has never been better for Americans to venture North and indulge in the meats that many Canadians are too old, or too poor, to eat.

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