Did you know… that in Canada, we mark Food Freedom Day in early February? This is the calendar date when the average Canadian has earned enough income to pay his or her individual grocery bill for the whole year.
Canadians enjoy one of the lowest-cost “food baskets” in the world, spending only about $0.10 of every dollar on food – compared to almost $0.25 in Mexico and approximately $0.31 in Russia [source].
Food choices abound
We are lucky to live in a country like Canada, where we have a wide variety of food available to us – and there has always been plenty of it. Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when some people in Canada went hungry, it was because they couldn’t afford to buy food, not because there wasn’t enough available. We have the land, the water and the farmers here to produce enough food not only for ourselves, but also to feed people in other areas around the world.
All of this means we have a wide choice when it comes to the kinds of foods we can buy, and we have the freedom and opportunity to support different types of farming or production systems. This isn’t always the case in other parts of the world, where food shortages exist or food is so expensive that it is out of the reach of many people.
The economics of food
Farming is a way of life for Canada’s farmers – and it’s essential to food security, which means ensuring you, our country and the world’s population has enough to eat. But farms are also businesses and they must be able to make money if they want to keep producing food and providing jobs. It takes more than farms to feed a country. We need a whole supply chain that is also economically viable to make our food happen, including suppliers such as feed or fertilizer, equipment, processors and transporters.
Farmers take a thin share of the food dollar
In Western Canada, for example, research shows that out of every dollar spent on food, only approximately 33 cents goes back to the farmer and even when consumer food prices go up, the amount that goes back to the farm doesn’t change.
The 2012 study also showed that :
• Consumers paid an average of $5.38 for one pound each of carrots, onions and potatoes and 759 grams of peas – but the farmer’s share was only $1.53.
• One kilogram of oats, 675 grams of bread and 540 grams of cereal cost consumers an average of $8.71, of which the farmer received only $0.58.
• Four litres of milk, 650 grams of yogurt and one kilogram of cheese that cost you an average of $19.03 at the grocery store in turn paid only $9.42 to the farmer who produced them.
• Livestock farmers received only $19.04 or 33 per cent of the $57.25 consumers paid at the store for one kilogram each of beef, turkey, chicken breast and pork, a dozen large eggs and 398 milliliters of beans.
• According to Chicken Farmers of Canada, the average cost of a quarter chicken dinner at Swiss Chalet is $10.19 (or $13.24 if you add in taxes and a gratuity) – of which the farmer’s share is $1.06 – or 10.4 per cent of the cost*.
* Farmers Share of Meal is derived from the ‘Cost of Menu Item’ and is based on a live price of $1.70/kg.
For more interesting farm and food tidbits, check out www.realdirtonfarming.ca.