Lorne Gunter

Published: June 16, 2022

-Toronto Sun


I’m not sure there’s as much to worry about as ranchers and the Alberta government think there is. Still, it’s the principle of the thing.

Ottawa wants to stick preachy new labels on the front of ground beef packages warning that the contents are unhealthy. (And Health Canada means unhealthy to eat even after it’s cooked, not just raw, which we all already know.)

But it’s barbecue season. It’s getting hot out.

Which do you think is going to win, yet another uptight health warning from federal bureaucrats or the desire to crack open a cold one and grill up a thick burger on the deck?

Heck, I’ll buy extra ground beef just to spite Health Canada.

(By the way, if you melt a nice slice of cheddar over the top of that burger, the double dose of fat is going to cause someone at Health Canada to have a coronary. So cheeseburgers really are bad for health – theirs, not yours.)

My money’s on the burger and brew, which means my money’s on the innate good sense of ordinary Canadians to ignore the smug, eat-your-peas messaging of Ottawa’s health nannies.

Of course we’d be better off with a handful of celery sticks, some rice cakes and a cup of skimmed milk, but where would the fun in that be?

A dietician once told me if I followed her simple diet, I could live 10 years longer. I told her if I had to eat like that, I might survive 10 extra years, but it would hardly be living.

The desire to save us from ourselves – of which this proposed label is an excellent example – comes from the savers’ innate sense of intellectual or moral superiority. They’re sure that if only we were as smart as they are, we’d make “better” choices. Therefore, they feel a missionary’s compulsion to inform us of the error of our ways.

As if we weren’t already well-enough informed to balance off risks and rewards for ourselves.

That’s the kind of government interference with personal choice that really gets under the skin of lots of people, not just beef producers.

But there’s more to this than just the usual nanny state nitpicking. The crusaders at Health Canada seem intent on Canada becoming the first country in the world to label ground beef as a health threat.

And they seem intent on singling out ground beef and pork from amongst all foods.

The “front of package” (FOP) labelling is meant to apply to all foods that have sugar, sodium and fat content that is too high (as determined by Health Canada).

But federal bureaucrats have granted lots of exemptions, mostly for fresh or unprocessed foods. For instance, fresh fruits are often above Ottawa’s sugar-content benchmark, but because they’re fresh, they get a pass. Dairy and eggs, although high in saturated fat, are exempt, too.

So why not ground beef?

The answer might not seem to be a political landmine outside the West, but Alberta produces two-thirds of Canada’s beef. So, when Ottawa seeks to add yet another burden to cattle producers who are already struggling with higher fuel taxes, higher fuel prices, drought and soft markets, producers in Alberta can be forgiven for seeing this as yet another us versus Ottawa issue.

Regional politics might be our saviour in this case, though. No, not because a prime minister named Trudeau might, for once, see how his policies are unfairly impacting the West and change his ways. (That’s never going to happen.)

Rather, Quebec produces a disproportionate amount of Canada’s pork (about 40%) and we all know how federal Liberal government’s rush to appease Quebec whenever that province feels aggrieved.

Maybe if Quebec complains about FOP labelling on ground pork, it will benefit beef producers, too.