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The Scoop: A Special Report on Canadian Dairy

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“When I’m no longer rapping, I want to open up an ice cream parlor and call myself Scoop Dogg.” – Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., aka Snoop Dogg

We live in a world of fast and readily available information. This is in many cases a great thing, but the flipside is the spread of misinformation or the conflation of “facts” that are not verified, accurate, nor are they necessarily applicable. When we talk about dairy as food and beverage professionals, are we talking about the Canadian industry or have we—like so many—lumped Canadian dairy in with dairy products from other countries? At MENU, we have done our own little Q&A with food professionals, and we found that too many Canadian food professionals don’t know the facts about Canadian dairy. This is true when it comes to the products, the processors and the industry in general.

We’ve done some homework on your behalf. We’ve spoken with Dairy Farmers of Ontario, we talked to Canadian restaurateurs and we reached out and visited with three Canadian ice cream processors to get the real scoop on Canadian dairy. Canadian dairy producers and processors care about your business. As foodservice partners, they give us advice and information to help Canadian restaurateurs and operators to use dairy products and brand stories to build your menu offerings and your profits. We’re focusing on ice cream in this issue—a harbinger of summer, the lineups outside the ice cream shops have already begun! Though a good, old-fashioned ice cream cone may have earned a lasting place in our hearts, ice cream is a versatile ingredient that deserves far more menu love. We’ll show you how to get ice cream and ice cream brands working for you. Ice cream is a social and friendly ingredient. It’s happy to be the main attraction or to be a team player in your breakfast, snack, entrée, dessert, cocktail and beverage offerings.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario

Every province in Canada has a dairy marketing group. These organizations play a significant role in advocacy and education for dairy producers, processors, foodservice industry partners and consumers of Canadian dairy.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) is the marketing group for the largest sector of Ontario agriculture. It is owned and operated by Ontario’s dairy farmers. The Ontario dairy story is one of people, community and innovation. Canadian milk lies at the heart of the story as the essential ingredient tying these elements together. Dairy processors, such as the companies we’ve met, foodservice visionaries—historically and today—bringing together innovation, craft, unyielding quality and advocacy for Canadians. Canadian dairy leads the world in best practices, quality and animal welfare. Dairy farmers and processors love what they do. They told us so.

Graham Lloyd, DFO’s general manager and chief executive officer, says the true story behind Canadian dairy is the people and animals that make the industry and Canadian dairy products among the best in the world.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the milk consumers buy comes from within 100 miles,” says Lloyd. “It’s the highest quality in the world and is produced by dedicated farmers who reinvest in their farms. The Canadian dairy system is strong and ensures farmers get a fair return for their labour. Ontario dairy farmers still run family farms and always follow sound practices that enable them to raise healthy cows that produce high-quality milk.”

Lloyd shared more insights while he was in Washington, DC for the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations. He compares the Canadian industry to the United States (too many people make assumptions about Canadian milk that are in fact rooted in the US dairy industry and not Canadian dairy). “What is average in Ontario is considered exceptional in the US. We take for granted that we have the highest quality milk in the world. All our milk is tested. Every single farm is tested, at the farm level and plant level. Noncompliance is prohibited,” Lloyd explains. This also results in far less waste because of the high level of compliance, he adds.

When you think about the fact that there are about 3,600 dairy farms dotted across the province, it’s easy to see the local connection the industry has to consumers and the economy. Partnering with Ontario’s dairy sector means you are helping support local economies and rural communities, and ensuring your customers are served a variety of locally-produced, nutrient-dense, healthy foods that are consistently of the highest quality in the world. Make no mistake, these claims matter on every menu today.

Recent consumer surveys reveal the vast majority of Canadians—92 per cent—are happy with the range and quality of dairy products available in Canada. And in a survey from market research and strategy firm, Abacus data, released in April 2017, Canadians reiterated their support and satisfaction with the range and quality of Canadian dairy products. Lloyd says it is clear what Canadian consumers want. “Canadians want Canadian milk, naturally. Our strong dairy system makes sure they get what they want and at competitive prices,” he says.

The Economy of Milk

It is a myth that Canadians pay more than Americans. Canadian dairy farmers do not receive government funding to support their income. In fact, the sector contributes more than $20 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) without government subsidies. Ontario’s contribution to the GDP is $5 billion.

“Canadians operate under a supply management system for a reason. Production controls at the farm level enable us to control supply and demand, producing only what the market requires,” Lloyd says. “We do not flood our market with milk. If you do—such as what happens in the US—it can result in drastically lower farmer returns and retail sales. Thankfully, Canadian dairy farmers do not experience these market fluctuations.”

Unlike the US, which recently had to dump millions of pounds of excess milk, all Canadian milk produced goes to market.

“We have experienced significant investment at the farm and processing levels. We don’t see that in any other dairy country. As a result, Canadian farmers are empowered to produce safe, reliable and predictable-quality milk,” Lloyd points out.

Fake Moos! Know the Facts, Not the Myths

“On the processing side, dairy processors are able to operate under a strong and competitive dairy industry that allows them to modernize their equipment, create and enhance dairy products, and seek new market opportunities across the country,” Lloyd adds.

These measures are the same throughout the country. Canadian dairy farmers not only follow the best practices to raise healthy cows that produce milk of the highest standards, they are also environmental stewards and take great care in preserving the environment from coast to coast to coast. To offer the best milk every day, Canadian dairy farmers follow a set of standards and practices through proAction, an on-farm food safety program. By following this nationwide initiative, Canadian dairy farmers collectively demonstrate responsible stewardship of their animals and the environment, sustainably producing high-quality, safe and nutritious food for consumers. rBST, a growth hormone for dairy cows, is not approved for sale in Canada, even if it is used in the United States.

With proAction, farmers offer proof to customers that they work to ensure milk quality and safety. All milk produced on Canadian farms is tested for antibiotic residues upon arrival at the processing plant. Any milk that tests positive for these residues is discarded and not sold to the public. The farmer at fault is traced back through the sample taken at the farm every time the milk truck picks up milk, and he or she is responsible for all expenses related to discarding the shipment. Farmers are paid for the quality of their milk and are fined heavily if it does not meet industry standards.

The Canadian dairy system is a balanced and world-renowned ecosystem. Growth is nurtured in concert with the quality and sustainability consumers expect from a modern dairy industry. In many other industries, sustainability and sound environmental practices are sacrificed for growth. The Ontario dairy sector works to mitigate environmental impacts, ensure optimal animal care and welfare and contribute reliably to the social and economic interests of rural communities.

Dairy farmers are incentivized to follow sound animal care practices because they know healthy, comfortable cows produce higher-quality milk. MENU had the privilege of getting to know some farmers and dairy cows and saw firsthand the relationships and bonds producers have with their animals. Animal care is important to dairy producers, which is why treating their animals well and providing excellent care comes so naturally to them.

Be proud of including Canadian dairy products on your menu. Dairy farm and brand stories are a part of your story; dairy farmers care about the success of foodservice operations.

FAST FACT: TOP FLAVOURS FOR ICE CREAM IN CANADA

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Strawberry
  • Butterscotch
  • Caramel
  • Coffee
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Maple Walnut

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Get the behind the scenes scoop on how these three frozen confection titans built their brands, continue to innovate the product segment and support their local communities.