A proposed regulation from Health Canada that would require ground beef and pork to have a "high in" saturated fat warning label continues to be met with significant pushback from some Albertans.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development Nate Horner is worried about the potential consequences of this label and criticizes that meat specifically is being targeted.
"A lot of it is speculative at this point, but we don't see it (the labels) being a good thing for producers, the industry or consumers. Currently, there are exemptions for whole single foods like milk and eggs and vegetables, so we definitely think ground meat should fit into that area," Horner says.
"It's even more troubling because of the saturated fat level that they say is exceeding a threshold is in its uncooked form, so it's not even taking into account how the product is actually being consumed."
Horner added that the beef industry has already been struggling, and adding this label would only add to their troubles.
"Even before this label was brought up, we are fearful of losing primary production in the province anyways. The ranchers have had a difficult time, it's been a time of a lot of profits for the packing industry but we're fearful of losing producers. We've been through a drought, and extremely high input prices this spring... there are a lot of challenges on the landscape so we definitely don't want to see any more challenges. Especially self-imposed."
According to Alberta government's most recent statistics, the cattle industry contributed $437.4 million to Alberta's GDP and employed 23 000 Albertans. Alberta is also home to 4.5 million head of cattle, which is just above 40% of the Canadian total. The cattle industry is a big part of Alberta's economy, so a potential challenge like a warning label has Horner worried about the potential consequences.
"It's also very troubling because this is something we're a major exporter of. What message does it send to other countries and their consumers who are knocking on our door because there's a global protein shortage of all kinds and a lot of global instability? People are wondering what Alberta and Canada can bring to the table and how we're going to help feed the world. Something we're very proud to do."
Horner said the feeling he gets from some Albertans is that cattle farmers are being unfairly treated.
"I was at the beef conference in Red Deer the last couple of days and it's definitely viewed as a targeted move because it's so illogical. Our provincial dietician and health minister, they've been clear that this is an affordable way to get protein onto the plate of Alberta families. A lot of the feeling is that this feels targeted against beef production."
This feeling has led to some ranchers starting an online campaign called Don't Label My Beef. Horner encourages people to visit the site if they have concerns about the proposed labelling.
"Any Canadian or Albertan can get involved and make sure they know their MPs and the federal government across the country understand how ridiculous we feel this labelling initiative is."
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