The luxury of food choices
Thanks to the bounty of Canada’s food system, many Canadians can make food choices based not just on cost or availability. When they’re deciding what to eat, they can also consider nutrition, health or production methods, for example. That’s because there are many types of farms in Canada. Broadly speaking, if there’s a market for a certain type of food, there are likely to be Canadian farmers that will be able to provide it.
Organic food in Canada
Farmers grow their crops and raise their farm animals in a variety of ways, following different production practices, such as conventional (non-organic) or certified organic production. Certified organic food is grown in ways that support the principles of organic agriculture by focusing on health, ecology, fairness, and care to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment. Farmers producing certified organic food must follow and document strict production rules around crop rotation, soil health improvement, natural fertilizers and pest control methods, certain additional humane livestock management practices, and traceability from farm to fork. Most farmers who aren’t certified organic producers also follow these principles – the big difference is that farmers who are certified organic producers must document and prove that they are following the rules set out in the Canadian Organic Standards. In Canada, third party certification organizations that have been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency look after certifying organic farms. Some farmers
grow both certified organic and conventional crops on their farms, but regardless of the type of farming, the key is sustainable production. Canada’s market for organic food items is worth over $7 billion annually. About 7,900 Canadian farms are certified organic, with the largest share of those farms located in Quebec. Approximately 1,800 food processors also have certified organic status – most are in Quebec, followed by Ontario and British Columbia.
At a glance:
3.1 million acres of land is in certified organic production - or about two per cent of Canada’s farmland.
60% of Canada’s certified organic food is imported from the United States.
27% increase in the number of certified organic livestock farmers since 2015.
Why some consumers prefer organic foods
Many consumers associate organic food with a healthy lifestyle. However, all agricultural food products — meat, eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and others — are rich in nutrients, and are part of Canada’s Food Guide. (https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/) Regardless of how it is produced, all food in Canada must meet the same food safety standards. For imported products to be sold and labelled as organic, they must meet “equivalency arrangements” by which the regulations and certification process of another country are deemed consistent with Canada’s.
Canada has some of the strictest food safety regulations in the world, so regardless of how the food you choose has been grown, you can be confident that it is a good choice. You can read more about food safety on page 32.