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Consumers Rise To Buy-Local Challenge

Barbecue season is upon us and more and more Canadians are visiting farmers’ markets or seeking out a Product of Canada label in order to support Canadian farmers. Several campaigns promoting locally grown or Canadianproduced food have sprung up. Recently, retailers like Loblaw Companies Limited, fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and major companies like Unilever (Hellmann’s), have pushed buy-local or buy-Canadian initiatives. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is glad to see momentum behind buying Canadian products.

Loblaw Companies Limited, Canada’s largest food distributor, has embarked on a “Grown Close to Home” campaign whereby they promote Canadian produce in stores with special signage and displays. According to a survey commissioned by Loblaw last year, 86 per cent of 1,000 respondents agree that given the option, they would prefer to buy Canadian produce. In response to this growing need from consumers, Loblaw offered 150 to 180 Canadian produce items during the peak of the 2008 harvest season. On April 27, 2009, President’s Choice expanded its fresh meat products to include more Canadian-sourced meat. Loblaw aims to source as much product as possible domestically.

Many may recall McDonald’s latest breakfast campaign heralding the use of Canada Grade A freshly cracked eggs in every Egg McMuffin. Approximately 50 million eggs are shipped to McDonald’s restaurants across Canada annually. Egg Farmers of Canada has also worked with A&W to promote fresh shell eggs on all their breakfast menu items, helping to support local egg farmers and graders.

Unilever features an “Eat Real. Eat Local” campaign on their website and provides more information on products sourced with Canadian ingredients. One such featured product is Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, which is made from locally sourced ingredients like Canadian eggs and canola oil from the Canadian Prairies. In addition, Hellmann’s television campaigns feature a call to action in which Canadians are encouraged to ask for Canadiangrown products at their retail outlets. Their campaign also notes that if Canadians are not careful, we will lose the ability to buy locally grown Canadian produce.

Anita Stewart, author and culinary activist, has pushed for local food in all of her books, at her annual barbecue event, and by founding Cuisine Canada, the only pan-Canadian network of culinary professionals. Stewart hosts the World’s Longest Barbecue – Canada’s Food Day every year at 6 p. m. on the first Saturday of August. The event, a response to the BSE crisis that was decimating the Canadian beef industry in 2003, serves as a Canadian grassroots celebration of Canada’s agricultural bounty.

The CFA commends these companies and individuals for their commitment and support to Canada’s agri-food sector and encourages other companies to quickly follow suit. At CFA we strongly believe that it is imperative to work collectively with the supply chain in promoting the high-quality Canadian products our members produce. We continue to consult with government in ensuring their domestic labelling campaign builds on these messages – that buying Canadian means more than simply supporting a Canadian farmer – it means supporting the men and women who in turn are supporting the environment, plant and animal health, the rural infrastructure and the economy.

Ron Bonnett is vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

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