Dairy cows at Toop Farms in Chilliwack during September 2018’s annual Agricultural Tour. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

B.C. dairy farmers say milk cup is half full in new Canada Food Guide

Despite what seems like a demotion, B.C. Dairy Association insists its inclusion is still integral

The cup of milk is half full for Fraser Valley dairy farmers who say, no, they don’t feel left out of the controversial 2019 version of the Canada Food guide.

“I was happy to see dairy is still included and included as a protein,” said Agassiz dairy farmer Julaine Treur.

Treur runs Creekside Dairy near Chilliwack and said while dairy has been eliminated as a food group, she doesn’t believe her sector was left out although she doesn’t agree with all that’s included in the new document.

“All the food groups have been eliminated,” she said. “Of course, there is a change towards plant-based eating. I don’t know, that doesn’t jive with my own view. We enjoy meat and dairy and eggs as a family.

“As for the industry, we kind of expected it to go this way and we are happy that Health Canada still considers that dairy can be a healthy part of your diet.”

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

Canada Food Guide 2007

In contrast to past Canada Food Guides, this year’s version eliminates the food groups instead focusing on lifestyle, eating habits and a big-picture look at food choices. Previous food guide over the years said Canadians should enjoy a variety of foods from each of the four food groups: grain products; vegetables and fruit; milk products; and meat and alternatives.

Now there is an emphasis on eating food with other people, cooking at home and, quite simply, enjoying your food.

It has long been anticipated the new version would downplay red meat and dairy, but the B.C. Dairy Association (BCDA) is only looking at the bright side.

“I was really glad to see that milk is well-positioned in the new Food Guide,” BCDA director of nutrition education Sydney Massey said. “And it really shouldn’t be as surprise that it should be there, it is with good reason. It’s nutritious, it is widely available, it affordable, it is a local product, it is a convenient food.”

Calling dairy “well-positioned” may seem like a stretch given the more ambiguous guidelines, and the fact that dairy is reduced from one-quarter of all food products we should be eating to a thimbleful on a plate in the Canada Food Guide’s website image.

But Massey wouldn’t bite when asked if there was concern among dairy farmers about its seeming demotion.

“The format changed but it is very obvious that Health Canada wanted to keep it very much part of the food guide.”

Canada Food Guide 2019

Asked about claims from some, including leading nutritionist and Harvard expert Dr. Walter Willett, that humans have no nutritional need for milk, Massey reiterated that dairy is simpler, cheaper and more local than the alternatives.

“You can get your nutrition from other places,” she said. “It’s just that much easier and much more affordable [with dairy]. It’s our local products that people enjoy eating.”

As for what we are specifically missing, what is easy to get with simple dairy products, according to the BCDA, it’s calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and vitamins A and D.

There have been questions whether anyone pays attention to the Canada Food Guide anyway. Treur replied that it’s taught in schools, something that influenced her. Massey said that while a failing of the previous food guide may be that it didn’t shift eating behaviours enough, where it is respected is in public policy is that it influences food served at institutions and school lunch programs.

As for dairy farmer Treur, given that there was word dairy might be excluded altogether from the food guide, that they are there at all is a good thing.

Still, she and others are confused by the Guide’s recommendation for low-fat dairy products, something many experts say is not the way to go.

“It was a bit concerning that they are still pushing the low fat dairy when there is a lot of research that says otherwise,” she said. “We eat a lot of butter and we love our bacon, and we are a very healthy family.”


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