food | On the Canadian plate

What do Canadians eat? Multiple indices make it possible to know what they put on their plate. One of them, measured by Statistics Canada, ranks the “availability” of food for every Canadian. Take a look at the latest data.

Posted at 7:00 am

Judith Lachapelle

Judith Lachapelle
The press

Available but not necessarily consumed

What exactly are we eating? How many kilograms of apples, liters of milk and eggs does each Canadian consume over the course of a year? “It is very difficult to measure actual consumption,” explains Rémy Lambert, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Food Economics at the University of Laval.

To approximate this, Statistics Canada measures “food availability” using the factual data at its disposal. “For each food item, we add what we produce and what we import, we subtract what we export, we compare stocks at the beginning and end of the year and divide by the number of Canadians,” he says.

The result gives a food’s ‘availability’, which Statistics Canada also calls ‘apparent consumption’. This “available” food is not necessarily bought by the consumer: it can be bought by a processor who uses it to make a new product. Nor does it take into account the specifics of the territory, points out Sébastien Rioux of the Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Food and Well-Being. “The food supply varies depending on where you live, for example if you live near vegetable growing areas. »

The more people eat it, the more food is available…isn’t it?

Typically, a product’s availability follows demand, but not always: In 2021, due to supply chain issues, “the link between food availability and consumer preferences has been harder to see,” Statistics Canada writes in its report released May 31. There are several reasons why a product’s availability may vary.

For example, during the pandemic, demand for flour was high (thanks, Ricardo), but availability was low… and not just because of demand. The decline in wheat flour availability in 2021 “coincides with a decline in wheat production due to drought conditions in western Canada” in 2020, Statistics Canada specifies.


Less availability, more variety

Nevertheless, the observation of food availability reflects the evolution of food preferences. One of the most notable declines is in the amount of milk available for consumption. Over the past decade, the amount of milk available per person has fallen from 76.5 liters in 2011 to 60.9 liters in 2021 – a decrease of 20.3%.

Why is less milk available? In a study published in 2017, Statistics Canada suggested that the decline seen since 2009 could be due to “dairy substitutes available to consumers, such as soy milk and almond milk.” “Some people also choose frozen desserts, made with coconut oil over ice cream, for example. »

The same phenomenon partly explains the decline in beer availability over the last 20 years; Aside from the increase in wine offerings, one only has to look at the other drinks category to understand that alcohol drinkers haven’t stopped toasting.

cider, cooler and other non-alcoholic beverages

2011: 3 liters

2021: 7 liters

When export undermines availability

Export is one of the variables in the equation that greatly affects the availability of a product. If maple sugar availability has decreased by 10% in one year, this is mainly due to a short sugar season in spring 2020 and a surge in exports. Similarly, availability of Canadian beef, which will be in high demand in the United States in 2021, has declined 3.4% in a year. But beef availability has been steadily declining for a decade, also a sign of changing dietary preferences.

Availability of beef (per person)

1980: 28.7kg

1990: 24.8kg

2000: 23.4kg

2010: 19.9kg

2020: 18kg

Source: Statistics Canada

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