Getting beef back on the table

Health advocates want to get people back in their kitchens, and out of 
fast-food joints, and that’s an opportunity for the meat sector

As marketers, we’re always on the lookout for trends and how we can latch on to the waves to build momentum for messages.

One of the waves gaining momentum is ‘food skills.’

In a broad context, food skills is just about what it takes to get a meal on the table. This includes:

  • Knowing what food is and how it got to your table;
  • A basic understanding of nutrition, reading a label, and safe food handling;
  • Meal planning, food preparation on a budget, and things such as creative use of leftovers and adjusting recipes;
  • Mechanical techniques such as preparing meals, chopping/mixing, cooking, and following recipes.

At one time, food skills used to be taught in school in home ec, which may sound quaint and old fashioned until you consider it in a different light.

Today, people are increasingly talking about the ‘culinary brain drain.’

Cooking skills have been stripped out of school curriculums and increasingly, they’re not being taught at home. Research from a prominent Canadian grocery retailer captured some startling stats — not only were 70 per cent of Canadians under age 29 not kitchen confident, so were more than half of those over the age of 50. We have kids who don’t even recognize what a potato looks like.

From a public health and government view, food skills are increasingly seen as key to food security, providing stability for families, and controlling health costs for society as a whole.

Consider these startling facts — two-thirds of Americans are obese and because of this, the lifespans of this coming generation will be reduced by 10 years. The three leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer and stroke.

All are diet related.

Study after study cites two causes — sedentary lifestyles and changes in eating patterns over the last 30 years.

The Public Health Nutrition journal recently reported there has been an 18 per cent increase in calorie intake over the past 30 years. What’s interesting is that the increase in calories has come from seven food groupings: cheese, chicken (which is frequently breaded and deep fried), rice, oils, soft drinks, flour and salad oils. These are the very foods that are key ingredients in energy-dense convenience foods: pizza, chicken fingers, sweet baked goods, and food court items. Over the same period, consumption of traditional foods such as beef, eggs, and milk has declined.

A recent survey by Sobeys found 62 per cent of caloric intake coming from ultra-processed food. Eating processed food has become the norm — only 18 per cent of Canadians have one meal a day prepared from scratch.

  • From the Manitoba Co-operator: Eating healthy costs about $1.50 more per day

But this problem is being recognized and there are increasing calls to “change the diets of America.” This is creating an opportunity for the meat industry and it’s why we need to ride the food skills wave.

There is a cry and a call for a return to meals at the table with the health and social benefits of ‘real’ foods — and meat belongs on this table.

But research sourced by Canada Beef demonstrates a lack of cooking knowledge limits the ability to buy beef, with consumers aged 25 to 34 showing the lowest knowledge levels.

This is our opportunity and it needs to be our aha moment.

Meat is a wholesome, real food; and an anchor for healthy meals made from scratch.

Canada Beef and other organizations are working hard to ensure meat has a place at the table. Helping folks figure out how to buy and cook meat is central to this, and that is why we and others have undertaken a host of initiatives — from school programs and providing information in bites for time-starved consumers to labelling that helps people select and prepare meat and teaching them about the basics for cooking meat.

Food skills opportunities are just about everywhere for fresh meat — and I would encourage you to start the process at home and in your own life.

If you believe meat has a place at the table, then at the least, start off sharing that love with your families. Look for ways to build food awareness — how about hosting a potluck for the soccer team? Let kids in the kitchen and help them build confidence in their food skills.

Cooking and food is about sharing and thinking about those who we care about. It helps define us, binds us together, and empowers us as individuals and families.

Let’s get on the wave of promoting food skills to keep our place at the table.

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