David Zirnhelt

David Zirnhelt

Ranch Musings: Food price increases

David Zirnhelt highlights some of the reasons food prices are going up

Increases in the cost of food in the year to come will cost the average Canadian family $487, on top of the average food cost of $12,667.

Family incomes are probably not going up that much. So why are prices going up so much and what can be done to compensate for the increases?

The Canada Food Price Report for 2020 was released recently citing, for example, that dairy products will be up one to three per cent, fruit one to 3.5 per cent, meat four to six per cent, bakery goods zero to two per cent and vegetables two to four per cent, for an average of two to four per cent.

In this last year, vegetable prices jumped a whopping 17 per cent.

One of the driving factors for these increases are consumer trends, which focus on core health and welfare interests, such as animal welfare and the prevalence of restrictive diets.

Some specialized processed foods and recommendations of the new Canada Food Guide lead consumers towards higher-priced foods.

Maybe it’s time to simplify our diet to unprocessed foods and process (cook and preserve) more food ourselves. Maybe bake some bread.

Anyone can bury a barrel in the backyard and cover it with old hay bales and put your home-grown potatoes, carrots and beets in it.

In the spring and summer, grow your own gardens for fresh vegetables.

Statistics show 1.15 million children are food insecure, and a total of four million people in Canada don’t have enough quantity or quality of good enough food.

Grow, share and trade food with neighbours or work for a farmer and trade labour for food. Learn from an elder how to make bone broth. There are many things one can do to reduce the cost of food.

Now, for some of the reasons our food is going up in price.

Changing weather patterns such a drought, forest fires, heavy precipitation, reduced fresh water access and rising sea levels all affect world-wide food production.

Unpredictable crop yields are caused by heat-wave effects on livestock, pasture availability and outbreaks of pest and disease. Too much rain and cool weather can reduce some food growth.

Other factors driving up food costs are geopolitical conflicts, single-use plastic packaging, increases of protectionism in trade and ongoing technical disruption of supply chains giving rise to more customizable and tailored food options, sometimes called “value adding” or “further processing.”

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.