October 30, 2015 11:23 am
Updated: October 31, 2015 9:37 am

Is bacon off the menu for Canadian consumers? Experts say no

Do we need to overhaul our diet and cut out processed meat entirely? Heather Yourex-West has a look.


Will more consumers skip bacon on Sunday mornings following a damning report from the World Health Organization this week that said processed and red meats aren’t exactly healthy food choices?

Those who track the financial health of meat producers who may see a loss in business suggest not so much.

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“While this could impact volumes in the near term, we do not believe this announcement will have a material impact on consumption patterns,” stock experts at CIBC World Markets said in a new research note.

“The reality is that most people believe that moderate or occasional consumption is fine, and will continue on with current patterns.”

Downward trend

Canadians have been reducing their red meat intake for years, it appears, as trends in eating habits have favoured a shift toward less consumption of beef and pork (lamb rounds out red meat’s three principle proteins).

CIBC’s analysts said pork consumption in North America has been declining at a rate of 1.8 per cent annually since 1980.

Rising prices have also played a role in diminishing appetite in Canada and other Western countries, experts say, as demand from growing middle classes in China and other industrializing nations drives prices higher.

Survey results released by the University of Guelph’s Food Institute this week suggest consumers are dialing back on beef consumption, citing the markedly higher prices seen in supermarkets in recent years as the chief reason why.

MORE: Why Canadians are already cutting back on red meat

For their part, meat companies are responding to this consumer shift – and are betting shoppers will pay more for meat that’s produced through less industrialized and more humane methods.

Canadian pork producers like Maple Leaf Foods and Quebec-based Olymel are overhauling operations so hogs are raised “crate free.”

“As consumers look to not only what they eat but how it is produced, a sort of revolution in responsible consumption” is taking shape, Michael McCain, the head of Maple Leaf Foods said this week.

‘More of our animals will be fed a complete vegetarian diet’

“We’re taking a leadership position that will result in a different kind of meat company,” McCain said on a conference call.

“We’ll offer even more natural products made with simpler ingredients,” he said. “We’ll have more products from animals never given antibiotics or hormones, more of our animals will be fed a complete vegetarian diet.”

WATCH: A new report from the World Health Organization says eating processed meat causes cancer and that red meat probably does too. Tina Kraus reports from London.

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