The difficulty of eating local

One of the difficulties of trying to eat local food is that you can’t trust food labels, at least not in Canada. Last October, CBC’s Marketplace broadcast an enlightening program about the meaning of the ‘Product of Canada’ label, which you can watch again online, in which they revealed that this branding means that 51% of the production costs (not even the content) were spent in Canada. This is allowed thanks to legislation created in 1985, when 20% of Canadian food was imported; now we’re at the 40% stage, it is starting to sound downright silly, let alone outdated.

So in the example given, of Highliner frozen fish products branded ‘Product of Canada’, the fish may have been farmed in Vietnam, Indonesia or China and then shipped frozen to Canada for processing, becoming Canadian somewhere en route. When the program-makers went to Lunenburg, the published address for Highliner, they were told that no fishing boats had come in there for six or seven years.

All of which is problematic to consumers: they can’t make informed choices, because the information they’re using is flawed and misleading. They can’t vote with their wallets against poor labour practices, potentially unsafe food production practices, unsustainable fishing practices, or unsound ecological practices, and they can’t even support local producers because they cannot tell (from packaged goods anyway) which products are truly local.

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0 Responses to The difficulty of eating local

  1. Rhona! Thank you so much for this! I heard the piece on Raj Patel’s book and it was really really good!!! But I didn’t write down the info and all I remembered was that his first name was Raj. Then I completely forgot about it when life got busy. So thank you for the reminder! I want that book, or at least I want to read it.

  2. PS: Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine had its own trailer which is really a short documentary film. I think it may have premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year…

  3. Rhona McAdam says:

    Hey B, thanks for the link to Klein’s trailer. Holy taser…

  4. You’re welcome. Klein’s book is hard to read. I’ve been working at it for a while now.