A generous man will himself be blessed for he shares his food with the poor - Proverbs 22:8

In developed countries like Canada, most food is now produced through ‘industrial farming’. It has been enabled by the availability of fossil fuels that have replaced farm animals and most of human labour by machines (from ~50% of the Canadian farm population in 1920 to 1.5% now). Highly developed, machine- based processing and delivery to supermarkets complement the field production to create plentiful, diverse and cheap food supply that Canadians have been blessed with - unlike most people in other parts of the world.

These achievements came a large environmental cost: loss of manure as organic fertilizer; soil degradation (through water and wind erosion, lost soil organic matter and structure, compaction); food waste (63% of household food waste in Canada could have been eaten); and importantly climate change, enhanced by the burning of fossil fuels and the widespread use of nitrogen fertilizers. Industrial processing and packaging - mostly not recycled - put further pressure on the environment. The availability of cheap, highly processed food over time has also created serious health problems for many people.

The challenge

Continuing research and increased public awareness are bringing about gradual changes in the ways Canadians obtain and use food. They include:

  • Lower consumption of meat and especially of beef, one of the main agricultural sources of greenhouse gases in agriculture.
  • Increased use of locally produced food that is fresh, minimizes transportation costs and supports the local economy.
  • Increased concern about the use of plastics in food packaging and distribution; etc.

The challenges to ‘eating well’, which also have positive consequences for the environment, are well summarized by the Canadian Food Guide 2021:

  1. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods
  2. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often
  3. Limit highly processed foods. If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in small amounts
  4. Prepare meals and snacks using ingredients that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat
  5. Choose healthier menu options when eating out
  6. Make water your drink of choice
  7. Replace sugary drinks with water
  8. Use food labels
  9. Be aware that food marketing can influence your choices.

More information

10 ways we can make the food system more sustainable

Canada’s Food Guide: Also includes advice on eating habits, recipes, tips and other resources:

Plant based diets: advice by the US National Institute of Health:

Going dairy- free is easy and the payoff is huge:

Reduced meat (flexitarian) diet:

Cattle farming is one of the most destructive industries on the planet:

Find out about chicken farming:

Climate-friendly diets can make a huge difference – even if you don’t go all-out vegan: