On Wednesday, Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, made a quick statement about milk, that could possibly have a massive impact on all Canadians.
He was at a meeting of Canadian Dairypeople. He was speaking to families that make their living producing milk.
These families live and operate in most communities across our country (except the North). Most of them have been farming the same way for generations and work incredibly hard. They continuously reinvest in their facilities and strive to care for their herds as if they were their pets. Every Dairy Farmer will tell you that a happy and healthy cow will produce way more milk than a stressed cow.
Dairy farmers produce the best quality milk they can. They’re fortunate for the Canadian quota system so that many families can live a comfortable life, afford to raise their kids, and constantly reinvest back into our communities.
Full disclosure – I worked on a Dairy Farm as a kid – the same Dairy Farm that my Grandfather-in-law worked at in the 1950’s. My family is still close friends with the Dairy Farmer and his family. I love dairy farms, and dairy cows are my very favourite animals. Dairy Farms are a big part of the community I grew up in and my love and appreciation of Dairy Farms is not going to change no matter what I believe about our food/health care system, and government policy.
Getting under my skin
What drove me to write this blog was the position of Mr. Scheer. He states that milk is all that could have saved his son from being calcium deficient.
Our government, yes our Liberal government, just updated our food guide in a way that might, just might, help make Canadians healthier. North Americans are getting sicker, and dealing with rates of disease that is unreasonable and unmanageable. So far I’ve not seen the pharmaceutical industry curb the amount of people that are showing up at doctors’ offices with either full blown issues or early signs. It’s almost like they want people to be sick and in need of medication.
It makes sense to me, through the vast amount of research and reading that I’ve done, and the lifestyle that my family adheres to, that maybe food could be playing a big role in what’s making and keeping us sick, and that changing what we eat could help reduce the instance of sickness and illness in our population.
Did our Government go too far?
Our government started telling us what to eat as a way to ration food during the World Wars. This was important as there was only a certain amount of food available and it needed to be used sparingly. Obviously this is no longer an issue, but the Government still updates the food guide as it feels necessary. Mr. Scheer is upset that the Liberal Government did not consult industries before they went ahead with their new recommendations.
This is true. They did this in a meaningful way and were directly instructed to avoid the powerful meat, dairy, and large food company lobbies which tried every way they could to influence the outcome because they knew if the science spoke for itself, then they were going to get sidelined, as they did. They are fully aware that there are loads of studies that prove that excess amounts of meat products, processed foods, and sugar, is bad for Canadians health over the long term.
The logic was that the Food Guide should be designed to be the best food recommendations for Canadians, and not a representation of our food industry. For a few generations we’ve been eating some food in large amounts that doesn’t seem to have worked out that well for us. We now have an abundance of food that comes from a time where the sources of food were hard to come by, like a cow.
How’d we get here?
Having cows in a village a few hundred years ago made a load of sense. The cow would spend all day eating grass and vegetation and you could simply milk that cow and get some of the nutrients from what they ate. This was not ideal nutritional value for humans but it was the best available to feed the village for most of the year.
Fast forward to 2019: we can consume as much food as we want from wherever in the world we want. We have an abundance of what we need, from animals and the earth.
Over the last few decades, beyond the ethical issue or the environmental issues, health has become a major concern for many. I hear all the time that some people don’t believe they eat as well as the wish they could, and that they’re tired, overweight, or worse, sick.
This is where things get confusing. It’s generally accepted that eating less sugar and less processed foods is better for us and that many of us eat too much food that makes us unhealthy. But our food system has been built on convenience as a way to make money for large business. Large business does not really care about our health and wellness – they care about their bottom line, which is the responsibility of any business. Due to how our system works, and the marketing of food, we’ve been given lots of information over the last several generations that may have not be good for the individual Canadian.
Can we eat better?
Eating better means to reduce foods that are high in cholesterol, and sugar, and increase nutrient density, which comes from plants. Simply cutting out foods that are low in nutrient value and increasing foods that are high in nutrients (vitamins and minerals) will make you healthier.
There are very effective ways to reduce our weight, and sometimes eliminate food sensitivities, like a Keto or Paleo Diet, but these are not forms of eating for long term health due to the focus on Macronutrients and less focus on Micronutrients. Increasing Fat in your diet while eliminating carbohydrates will put us into Ketosis, where the body changes its fuel source and you lose weight while you can feel satiated. This is a short term fix as the increase in saturated fat has been proven to have long term health implications. Heart Disease and cognitive decline are real consequences of a high fat diet.
What’s the big deal?
Mr. Scheer is upset because the Dairy Industry is under threat, and he blames the new food guide, which was produced under the watch of the Liberals. Each and every government we’ve had has applied policies that have been good and bad – Liberals and Conservatives. This is not and should not be a partisan issue – this is for the health and vitality of all Canadians. Especially our children.
Mr. Scheer joked that his child is still alive because of chocolate milk. He explained that his child was a picky eater and that made him concerned for his son’s well being. This makes me feel very sympathetic to how hard it must be for them to raise their kids to eat a healthy diet, but picky eaters need to be understood and helped to understand how important it is to eat a wide range of whole food. Their future is at stake.
Mr Scheer was the Speaker of the House under Prime Minister Harper and is now the Leader of the Opposition. I can’t imagine the stress of his job; if he does not deliver this fall, he’s turfed. I can only imagine how hard it must be for them with their schedule and responsibilities – but it’s his choice.
My point here is, Mr. Scheer is a man who wants to lead all Canadians. He believes that if his son did not drink tumblers of chocolate milk then his son may have been negatively impacted because he was not getting enough Calcium. I’m sorry Mr. Scheer, but in 2019, that’s plain ignorant.
It’s not for me to tell him not to feed his child so much sugar (6 tsp per cup) and cow’s milk, but what I want to point out is that our leaders, and the people that are shaping policy for our children, must get their head out of the sand and do their homework.
What to do?
I appreciate that Dairy Farmers are concerned about the next generation, who seem to be moving away from dairy for dairy alternatives. It’s very common now to find Oat, Hemp, and Almond milk in many coffee shops. I’m finding that even families that aren’t that concerned about the issue of eating meat, are considering if dairy is right for them due to someone in the family who’s developed a sensitivity. I’m hearing this daily.
You can read all you need about the pro’s and con’s of milk here, but the science is clear that every nutrient you get from dairy comes from plants. If you need to add an excess of sugar to your child’s food to get them to eat it that is your choice, of course, but it’s critical that we know the long term effects of our actions.
Calcium also comes from green plant based sources, which are proven to be easier to digest and contain even more nutrients than dairy. I know first hand what it takes to convert away from dairy and I have my own surprising story of how positive it was for me and my family.
Raising and feeding kids is not simple, and making food choices can be very challenging, but I believe that we have a responsibility to them to do better. That is to do better than our parents, who raised us in a time where we did not have the abundance of very accessible information about health and wellness, like we do now.
Calling them out
I take issue with politicians, especially ones that think they can run our country, that talk to a topic that they obviously have spent little time researching. In my opinion, admitting that they raised their son on mostly chocolate milk should be a point of extreme remorse, but he stated it as a proud parenting moment. He stated that he would take a ‘close look’ at the new Food Guide as Prime Minister, which greatly concerns me. I’m only judging him because he made a public point to state that (chocolate) milk is fine for us and we should continue to consume it because we have for thousands of years.
This is misleading: Yes, some humans have consumed animal milk for many generations but for 1) they did not add chocolate syrup, and for 2) we did not pasteurize it, and buy it by the gallon.
I believe that we must do better by our kids, and for ourselves. What we did a generation ago does not mean that it’s right, or healthy. I do not want to see the dairy industry go away, but I want Canadians to be as healthy as possible, which I believe is more important. This will make us more productive, reduce our dependence on responsive medicine, save us money, and hopefully make us happier.
I challenge anyone who wants to affect health policy to do their homework and research before they talk publicly. There is no longer a question regarding the negative health effects of food that was commonplace on our dinner plates in 1985. As long as heart disease remains the #1 killer in North America, as long as the rate of kids with ADHD and other attention disorders continues to rise, as long as our aging population continues to lose so much from horrible diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons, I will take issue with how we got ourselves into this situation, and those that tell us to stay the course.
For those that are looking for more information about feeding kids, there is limited quality information however Dr. Fuhrman produced this book a few years ago. It’s deep but on point.
More information from Cook Culture on feeding your family:
More to come!
Want to get Calcium into kids? Try blending greens with a Vitamix and adding yummy fruit! See the two top blog posts above.