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Saskatchewan beef and dairy producers decry Canada Food Guide update

Changes to the Canada Food Guide have some Saskatchewan producers concerned
WATCH ABOVE: Health Canada’s food guide is set to undergo changes – the first in over a decade. But not everyone is so keen on the update, including the province’s beef and dairy sector.

For years, the Canada Food Guide has been one of the most important resources for many generations of Canadians. For the first time since 2006, the bible for healthy eating is getting an update.

The revamp is expected to to lean away from dairy, beef and saturated fats as part of a well-balanced diet.

READ MORE: What nutrition experts want from Canada’s new food guide

The proposed changes would also see the dairy and meat groups combined to create a protein category — an unwelcome move by some nutritionists.

“That’s probably not a good idea — it’s too many foods in one group,” said Susan Whiting, a professor of nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan.

“Some of them are good for protein and others are good for calcium, and you could eat all the wrong protein foods — that’s not going to be healthy.”

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The changes aren’t going down well with beef producers, either.

“Less demand is going to mean a lower price for beef producers,” said Ryan Beierbach, president of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

The same concerns are being expressed by the dairy sector.

“The nutritional benefits of milk products have been recognized in every edition of Canada’s Food Guide since its creation in 1942,” the Dairy Farmers of Canada said in a statement to Global News.

“The evidence supporting milk as a part of a healthy, balanced diet has not changed; it should remain an integral part of the food guide.”

READ MORE: Meat, dairy sectors got beef with proposed changes to Canada’s food guide

A move away from the current two to four servings a day could impact the nearly 5,000 people employed by Saskatchewan’s dairy sector.

So, what should we be eating instead? According to preliminary guidelines released earlier this year by Health Canada, there’s an expected shift toward more plant-based, protein-rich foods.

“There’s a lot of other nutrients that come from meat that aren’t just protein,” Beierbach said. “So you have things like iron and Vitamin B — if you start steering people away from beef, they’ll end up being deficient in those nutrients.”

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READ MORE: Canada’s Food Guide: What the government is changing to help Canadians eat better

Despite the setback, Beierbach said the cattlemen’s association will continue to voice their concerns to Health Canada.

While beef and dairy producers are most likely to feel a negative impact from the changes, some sectors could see benefits from the new guidelines.

“Saskatchewan will benefit because we grow many of the pulses that are being consumed around the world,” Whiting said.

The consultation process for the update to the guide closed in early August. Unlike in previous years, industry had to submit their recommendations and concerns the same way as the general public.