While much of the autumn season in Ontario is focused on the fruit and vegetable harvest, it can be easy to forget that Ontario meat is also in high demand around this time of year.
Ontario-raised meat is the centrepiece of so much that happens in the fall calendar, whether it is at the centre of the dinner table or the snacks enjoyed with other activities. But we should also be cautious to not take it for granted. Between the 2016 and 2021 Canadian Censuses of Agriculture, Ontario lost nearly a quarter of its pastureland — a total of 113,688 acres. That loss of grazing land for livestock accounts for 20 per cent of the overall farmland that was lost in that period.
“We are so used to seeing fully stocked meat sections at our local grocery stores, that it is rare we stop to think about where our meat comes from,” says Peggy Brekveld, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). “The reality is, where our meat comes from is under increasing pressure. This season, Ontario’s farmers encourage people to take a moment to think about the farms where our food comes from and appreciate the importance of protecting and preserving the land that grows and raises our food.”
Through its Home Grown campaign — raising awareness about the importance of protecting productive Ontario farmland — the OFA offers some suggestions for incorporating Ontario-raised meats into your menu:
- The Big Feast — There is one statutory holiday that falls with the autumn season in Ontario, and it just so happens to be a holiday that has a great meal at its epicentre. The Thanksgiving feast is a renowned time when family and friends gather for a big meal — and at the middle of it all is the traditional Thanksgiving turkey or a savoury smoked duck. Did you know Ontario turkey farmers produce roughly 45 per cent of all turkeys consumed in Canada?
- The Big Game — Autumn in Ontario is a haven for sports lovers. Canadian and American football seasons are in full swing. Hockey and basketball seasons get under way. Baseball heads into the chase for the World Series. And this fall, there is the World Cup of soccer on the docket. With all of these sports to watch, it’s natural to have a good, hearty menu of eats with which to enjoy the games. That could mean grilled hamburgers made with Ontario beef and grilled mushrooms, crispy and perfectly sauced chicken wings or a few links of sausage to be grilled at the tailgate and enjoyed with locally-sourced sautéed onions and melted cheese.
- The Big Barbecue — For some, autumn is a last grasp at firing up the backyard barbecue and grilling up dinner before the snow flies; others push through all winter. Whichever camp you fall, this season is the last chance to grill before really inclement weather takes its grip. There is something about the fall that calls for pork. Grilled pork chops are a great option. Or take the time to slow cook ribs, or smoke a pork shoulder to make pulled pork sandwiches.
- The Big Comfort — ‘Tis the season of the comfort foods. As the days get cooler, we tend to turn to those foods the help warm us up — figuratively, if not literally. Think a roasted rack of lamb, hot and spicy chili or delectable shepherd’s pie made with Ontario ground beef and topped with Ontario potatoes.
- The Big Hike — With the leaves changing colour and brisk temperatures, fall in Ontario is an ideal time of year to hit the trails through the forest for a scenic hike. Whether it is a picnic basket packed with sandwiches, or some pepperoni sticks or jerky tucked away for the walk through the brightly coloured woods, check to ensure that the processed meats you are enjoying are from an Ontario source.
The preservation of farmland is a very critical issue in Ontario. According to figures from the Census of Agriculture released in the spring, Ontario is losing an average of 319 acres of productive farmland every day. That is enough acreage to produce more than 23.5 million apples, over 8.8 million glasses of fresh apple cider, 1.2 million bottles of Ontario VQA wine or 75.6 million carrots.
ONTARIO FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE