Canada Pork focuses on foreign and domestic markets

By Lauren Martin

Editor’s note: Lauren Martin is Senior Director, Government Relations and Policy, Canadian Meat Council (CMC). She can be contacted at

By bringing together producers and packers, Canada Pork continues to build bridges across the value chain, supporting markets here in Canada and all over the world.

Canada Pork’s 2023 Annual Conference was held in Toronto in early February, inviting participants to learn more about the organization’s accomplishments for the past year and challenges facing the industry today, along with its priorities and an overview of its strategic direction for domestic and global markets.

Since 1991, Canada Pork has brought together representatives from the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) – including provincial pork producer organizations – and the Canadian Meat Council (CMC) – including federally inspected meatpackers – to create a definitive link in the pork value chain.

Canada Pork’s Annual Conference was another opportunity for these stakeholders to share the same space and rub elbows with individuals from across the sector and country. As a first-time attendee, representing CMC, I found the information sessions and networking opportunities very useful, as someone who is learning more about the pork sector and how we all collaborate.

Conference participants were able to hear from a lineup of guest speakers, including Brett Stuart of Global AgriTrends, who provided a global economic outlook for pork, and Sylvain Charlebois of Dalhousie University, who gave us his perspective on the challenges facing Canadian agri-food and pork’s place in the equation.

Surveying the global pork landscape

Considering Canada exports approximately 70 per cent of its pork production, our reliance on trade and foreign markets cannot be understated. Stuart provided a high-level summary of global economic trends from the context our industry is operating in. His presentation also touched on some government regulations driven by environmentally focused or animal-welfare agendas that will impact our industry, including Prop 12 in California, the European Union’s (E.U.) climate and welfare policies that are restricting pork production across the pond, and federal emissions reduction targets here at home.

Stuart’s presentation fit nicely within the conference program, as Canada Pork staff took to the stage later in the day to discuss how they are addressing these market conditions, to help facilitate pork exports. Of note in the year ahead, Canada Pork said they will look to take advantage of the newly reinstated access to China and the Government of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. 

Providing a pork perspective closer to home

Sylvain Charlebois, the ‘Food Professor,’ is often asked by national news media outlets to speak about food issues for the public. His presence on social media has also sparked intense debate and opened eyes to agri-food system challenges.

Charlebois, popularly known as the ‘Food Professor’ on social media, can be quite the lightning rod for a range of opinions online, and in person, he may be even more compelling when not restricted to just 280 characters to explain his perspectives on the Canadian agri-food system.

One of the main subjects Charlebois covered was the price of food these days, especially protein, as many Canadians have voiced their concerns over inflation. He framed pork as the most affordable protein, even following it up by sharing a few social media examples showcasing some of the conversations he’s had.

Despite the consumer price advantage of pork, Charlebois believes Canadians haven’t yet flocked to pork as the saviour to the protein unaffordability dilemma.

Preparing for what’s to come

Ongoing threats to the Canadian pork industry continue to linger.  Stuart described African Swine Fever (ASF) as the ‘wild card’ with any global pork trends, and how its presence anywhere impacts access to foreign markets.

For Canada to have a chance at weathering ASF, should it arrive here, we will need the domestic market to absorb as much of the excess pork it can. While it might be an easy ask to get Canadians to do their duty and eat more bacon, all cuts will need an increase in consumption if the worst should come to pass. My key takeaway from this situation is to consider our industry’s role in promoting domestic pork consumption, leveraging current affordability concerns and favourable supply, in the event borders close to trade.

From CMC’s point-of-view, we ask, what can pork processors do to remain competitive within international markets, while also offering innovative products that are desirable and on-trend with today’s domestic consumer? This is a critical component to the industry’s ASF preparedness efforts. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.