Calls to eat more plants, less meat also in line with Canada’s food guide: McKenna

In some Canadian provinces, the methane produced by livestock is a significant source of greenhouse gases

A high-profile call to eat more plants and less meat in order to combat global warming is directly in line with Canada’s new food guide, which extols the health benefits of precisely such a change in diet, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Friday.

Standing in front of a cornfield at Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm, McKenna was announcing $600,000 in funding for various agricultural innovations including bioplastics, using artificial intelligence for crop spraying, and creating a smart data hub for agricultural management.

But her event came the day after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate issued a report on land use and climate change that warned the entire planet could be facing a global food shortage if people don’t step up their efforts to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

ALSO READ: New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

“We know we need to reduce emissions from all sectors, that includes agriculture,” said McKenna.

“The report also made the point that we can all be part of the solution and that includes considering our diet. Our food guide talked about looking at more plant-based foods and I think that is an opportunity for everyone.”

The new version of Canada’s Food Guide, released last January after more than two years of consultations, called for Canadians to choose plant-based proteins more often because they provide more fibre and less saturated fat.

The United Nations report is the third in the last 10 months to underscore the need for the world to curb its greenhouse-gas emitting habits enough to keep the planet from getting too warm. The latest one comes less than three months before Canadians will choose their next government in a campaign where the environment is expected to be a dominant theme.

Thus far, much of the focus of environmental platforms has been on curbing fossil fuel use including coal and gasoline, and in particular carbon pricing. Less attention has been paid to agriculture and forestry management.

The UN report this week suggested that the way humans have been using land, including for endeavours like forestry and farming, is to blame for about one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions between 2007 and 2016.

Many Canadian farmers, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan, have already adopted the zero-tillage seeding processes recommended by the UN report. These processes plant seed in soil that is mostly undisturbed rather than turning it over and releasing its stored carbon into the atmosphere. Nationally, 59 per cent of all seeded farmland in 2016 used zero-tillage, including 75 per cent of seeded land in Saskatchewan and 69 per cent in Alberta.

But another factor is the demand-side of agriculture. Meat production globally has more than doubled per person since the 1960s.

UN Food and Agriculture data show that in 2013, Canadians consumed 90.75 kilograms of meat each. Australians topped the scales at more than 116 kg, followed by Americans at 115 kg and Argentinians at 107 kg.

UN panel member James Skea, a professor at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, told the panel’s news conference Thursday that the evidence makes clear that “a move to more balanced diets could help us adapt to and limit climate change.”

He said that the report is not telling people what to eat because those are personal decisions that are often influenced by local supplies and cultural influences. Rather, he said, they are simply stating the fact that eating more meat — particularly red meat — produces more emissions.

“Diets high in grains, nuts and vegetables have a lower carbon footprint than those that are high in meat and they lead to better health outcomes.”

Producing meat, red meat in particular, takes up more land than producing grains and other field crops. One study from 2016 cited in the UN report said if every country in the world ate the average diet of many wealthy countries, like the United States and the United Kingdom, we would need more land than is actually available.

In some Canadian provinces, the methane produced by livestock is also a significant source of greenhouse gases. Nationally, methane from livestock is 41 per cent of all the emissions produced by agriculture, and almost four per cent of Canada’s total emissions. One dairy cow can produce as much methane as an average vehicle over the course of a year.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case double in Fraser North health area, up 50% in Vancouver

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)
BCHL still on track to begin regular season in December

Commish hopeful that league can “slide right into the regular season” after successful preseason

(Delta Police Department photo)
No offence in second incident involving a teen girl being approached in Tsawwassen: police

Police still investigating incident on Oct. 15 where teen girl was approached by older man in a burgundy car

Kristjon Olson in a photo released by Surrey RCMP.
High-risk offender back in custody facing child-porn charges, Surrey Mounties say

News of Kristjon Otto Olson’s arrest is posted to Surrey RCMP’s website

tease photo
Food truck desserts from Prague ‘pop up’ at Surrey shopping mall

The Praguery offers a modern take on a traditional pastry

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read