I live about 45 minutes from the U.S. border. It’s probably 60 minutes total to the closest American grocery store. While I’ve done a bit of cross-border shopping over the years, I stay firmly on Canadian soil when it comes to shopping for a certain staple – dairy.
Recent events have only solidified my allegiance to the blue and white logo that adorns Canadian dairy products.
Despite the fact that Canada and the U.S. share the longest undefended border in the world and enjoy a bilateral trade relationship that is – arguably – a global model for others, sometimes disputes crop up. (Even the closest friends and family members have the occasional disagreement, right?)
American noses were recently out of joint on dairy shipments to Canada. The U.S. contended that Canada employed tariff rate quotas (TRQs) strategically to impede U.S. dairy exporters from effectively competing in the Canadian market. The U.S. claimed that constitutes an unfair advantage to Canadian producers.
A dispute resolution panel from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) rejected this argument and found that Canada’s dairy policies are consistent with the trade deal’s regulations. Good.
I’m fine with there being less American dairy on Canadian store shelves than more. And, again, I’m not a milk and butter cross-border shopper (despite American milk and cheese perhaps being a bit cheaper than what I pay for local products).
It’s not that I don’t appreciate a deal. My choice is guided by something more fundamental: trust.
The blue and white logo, a fixture on Canadian dairy products, signifies a commitment to quality that resonates with me. It’s a symbol I trust for what’s NOT in the milk I drink.
Canada upholds rigorous standards for milk production, influencing how farmers care for animals and ensuring the safety and quality of Canadian milk. The blue and white logo guarantees hormone-free dairy, as artificial growth hormones, including rbST, are prohibited in Canada. In contrast, American dairy follows different standards, allowing the injection of cows with rbST to boost milk production.
Canadian milk operates within a system known as supply management, ensuring that it is solely produced by Canadian farmers.
I like supporting Canadian farmers, their wise practices, and their commitment to quality.
In the last year, the Canadian dairy industry contributed $8.2 billion in farm cash receipts and generated $17.4 billion in sales last year, sustaining over 70,000 jobs in production and processing throughout the country.
In health terms, Somatic Cell Count (SCC) gauges milk quality by measuring total cell count, mainly white blood cells combating inflammation. A lower SCC indicates higher-quality milk. Canada sets a maximum allowable SCC at 400,000, with an average well below at 205,000. Each batch undergoes testing to ensure compliance. In the U.S., the national standard is higher at 750,000, but for export, it must be below 400,000.
The dairy landscape in 2016 revealed that Canada boasted 11,200 dairy farms with a total dairy cow population of fewer than 1,000,000. In stark contrast, the United States had 41,800 dairy farms, supporting a staggering 9.3 million dairy cows. The state of Wisconsin single-handedly produces more milk than the entire consumption in Canada (sheesh!). Despite a 37% decrease in American milk consumption since 1970, their milk production continues to increase. This leads to oversupply issues, prompting efforts to boost dairy exports to countries like Canada.
Canadian milk production surpasses its American counterpart due to stringent quality control measures, hormone-free practices, and a supply management system that fosters sustainability and support of local farming communities.
Sure, there might be a slight premium on Canadian dairy products compared to their cross-border counterparts, but this is a small price to pay for a product backed by integrity.
I’m no expert on the intricacies of dairy production, but the clarity and openness in labeling and sourcing practices, coupled with the resolution of the trade dispute, further instill a sense of confidence. There’s comfort in knowing what I’m getting when I pick up a product bearing that familiar logo.
In a world where so many choices are driven by cost alone, I find solace in the consistent quality represented by the blue and white logo on Canadian dairy products. It’s a symbol of trust, a marker of transparency, and a nod to the dedication of our local producers who have triumphed in recent trade challenges. So, while I may not be scouring foreign aisles for a better deal, I’m content knowing that I’m getting more than just milk – I’m getting peace of mind with every purchase.
Chris Day has more than 25-years of leadership experience in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. He has served as a trusted member of executive teams, and as senior advisor to government ministers, CEOs, and other leaders.
Some of Chris’ proudest professional achievements include representing Canada and Canadians on the world stage, and leading several successful advocacy campaigns on behalf of purpose-driven organizations like C3FC.
Chris grew up in a rare Ottawa household where the economic importance of Canada’s agricultural and agri-food sectors were the topic of dinner conversation: his parents both worked for StatsCan’s agriculture division and were responsible for animal census publications.