Agriculture This Week - The future of our protein?

Research studies always seem to be interesting in what they unearth, and also leave you wondering exactly how the data was collected.

Survey data is generally accumulated off the responses of people to a series of questions. As someone in media, I am aware questions are not all created equal. They can be phrased to illicit certain responses, or they can simply be ambiguous enough that the answers are generic enough to be open to interpretation.

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So whenever I see a survey with somewhat surprising results, at least in my mind, I run through questions in my head regarding the validity of the results.

The first step is to look at who did the research, and unlike some, I still hold a trust of academic institutions.

So the latest Food Price Report from the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University is a survey that should have merit in its results.

And that is what is surprising here, and had me writing this column.

The data mined in the survey are suggesting Canadians are showing increased interest in reducing meat consumption, while increasing their purchases of plant-based proteins, which would naturally seem to go hand-in-hand. If you eat less meat you typically have to look to plant-based sources for your protein.

My first response to this was that consumers are making a decision based on their pocketbooks, and meat is a high cost item in the grocery cart.

While I appreciate there are those who peruse ingredient lists and make choices without worrying about the price tag, there is a reason store shelves are lined with low-cost options, because there are those where price is the only factor considered when making a purchase. Many Canadians simply do not have the income to look at food options with higher costs.

The university report did suggest an increase of 1.5 to 3.5 per cent in the average Canadian food bill in 2019, the lower end being modest as production costs always seem to rise because of utilities, wages and taxes. The report also noted at the upper end of the potential increase a family of four would see their food bill rise about $400.

With that in mind I had expected prices to be why Canadians were suggesting a move away from meat.

However the report suggests vegetable prices are likely to increase, while meat is forecast to decline.

It will be interesting to watch this play out to see if Canadians are merely curious about plant-based proteins as a current ‘hot’ consumer topic, and will try it and then filter back to more familiar meat sources, or if this is a true cultural change in terms of what we eat?

Calvin Daniels is Editor at Yorkton This Week.

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