Presented by Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan and Canadian Food Focus
In case you missed our past Cook alongs:
What is Ag in the City?
April 15, April 20, April 22, April 27 and April 29, 2021
Agriculture in the City is an opportunity to celebrate the great food we grow here in Canada!
Learn About Agriculture
Find out more about how food is produced and the science behind agriculture! Visit our learning pages below. You can go on virtual tours, download activity books, watch science videos and discover new things about different types of agriculture.
Learn About Food
Please join us for a fun evening together! Each of our five webinars will include a cooking demonstration, video vignettes about farming, trivia questions and prizes.
Join us at 5:00PM CST (7:00PM EST) on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting April 15 to April 29.
Learn about Cattle
Cattle that are raised for meat are called beef cattle. Canadian ranchers choose which breed or breeds to raise based on the characteristics of each breed.
Beef cows and their calves typically live on pasture during spring, summer, and fall, eating mostly a grass diet. Their thick coat of fur means that, with adequate shelter and a steady supply of feed and water, they can live outdoors comfortably all year long.
When beef cattle reach a weight of approximately 400 to 460 kilograms (about 900 to 1,000 pounds), they usually move from fields and ranges to open-air yards or barns called feedlots, where they can be managed more closely.
In feedlots, cattle are slowly switched from a diet of mainly forages (grasses and other plants) to a higher energy diet of grains (like barley or corn), hay silage (chopped and naturally fermented plants), minerals, and hay. This process results in marbled, high-quality grades of beef. Marbling is the existence of small white flecks of fat that run through lean meat, which contributes to its flavour and tenderness.
Learn more about beef from our partner
Learn about Chicken
Chickens raised for meat are called “broilers”. They live in modern barns where temperature, humidity, light, and ventilation are carefully monitored to ensure that the birds stay healthy. They roam freely around the barn on a floor that is covered with a soft bedding material of straw or wood shavings, and can help themselves to feed and water any time they want. Their feed consists of mixed grains and oilseeds, including corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, and canola, as well as minerals and nutrients.
Young chickens arrive on the farm from a hatchery as chicks and grow to market weight with other birds as part of a flock. Once birds go to market, all the bedding and manure is taken out of the barn, and the building is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the next flock of birds arrives. This approach helps prevent disease and keeps the flock healthy.
Learn more about chicken from our partner
Learn about Canola
Canola is a “Made in Canada” crop that was developed through traditional plant breeding techniques, and is now the cooking oil of choice for billions of people around the world.
Its name comes from a contraction of the words Canada and ola, meaning oil. Canola oil is prized for its heart-healthy properties, and contains the least amount of saturated fat of all common culinary oils. It is one of the most versatile and affordable oils, with many applications at home, in restaurants, and in food processing.
It is also a multi-purpose crop. Once the oil is extracted from the canola seed, a high-protein meal is produced from the remaining portion, which makes a great addition to livestock feed. It’s also used as a replacement for petroleum, to make green plastics, and an environmentally-friendly fuel called biofuel. Canada exports more than 90 per cent of its canola as seed, oil, or meal, to approximately 50 markets around the world.
Did you know? Canola is a member of the Brassicaceae family – the same botanical family as broccoli, turnips, rutabaga, cabbage, cauliflower, and mustard.
Learn more about canola from our partners
Learn about Eggs
Egg-laying hens in Canada can live in five different types of barns:
- Enriched Hens live in smaller, more natural sized groups with nest boxes, scratch pads, and perches that allow them to exhibit natural behaviour. This method will be the industry standard in Canada by 2036.
- Free run Hens live in larger groups, and can move around freely on the entire barn floor, but don’t go outside. They have scratch pads, and lay their eggs in nesting boxes.
- Free range Hens in larger groups are raised in barns similar to free run, but can go outside when the weather is suitable for them to do so. They are able to scratch and lay their eggs in nesting boxes.
- Aviary Larger groups of hens live in a barn with several levels for perching, eating, and drinking. They lay their eggs in nest boxes, and can go down to the barn floor to scratch.
- Conventional Hens live in small groups with equal access to fresh food and water. Mesh floors allow the hens’ waste to fall away, keeping the birds and eggs clean. Canadian egg farmers began eliminating this type of barn in 2014, and any new barns that are being built, or existing barns that are being renovated, must follow the new housing standards.
Learn more about eggs from our partner Saskatchewan Egg Producers
Learn about Milk & Dairy
Dairy cows—those raised to produce milk—are leaner than their beef cattle cousins, as they put their energy into making milk instead of gaining weight by building fat and muscle. Holsteins are the most popular milking cows in Canada, and are easily recognizable by their black and white spotted hides. Other common dairy breeds in Canada are Jersey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn, and Canadienne.
Did you know that more and more Canadian farmers are using robots to milk their cows? Cows move around freely inside the barn, and it’s up to them to choose when and how often they go to a robot, where they are milked by an automatic machine. The robot keeps track of how many times a day each cow has been milked, how much milk she has produced, and can track how much feed she has eaten. That means that the robot can let farmers know if a cow might be sick, if she isn’t giving as much milk, or isn’t coming to the robot to be milked as often.
In all barns, milk flows through pipes into a large milk tank, called a bulk tank, where it is cooled and stored until the milk truck comes—every two days on most Canadian farms—to pick it up and take it to a dairy processing plant.
Learn more about milk and dairy from our partner SaskMilk
Learn about Pork
Pigs can be raised indoors or outside, but since most breeds don’t have fur or wool coats to keep them warm in Canada’s cold winter weather, it is difficult for them to live outdoors all year long. That’s why most pigs in Canada live in specially-designed barns with fans—or “curtains” that can be opened—to keep a steady, comfortable climate indoors year-round, and to protect the animals against disease.
Sows are female pigs that “farrow” or give birth to a litter of piglets twice a year. Each litter usually includes 12 to 16 piglets.
Just before giving birth, most sows go into special enclosures called farrowing pens where they stay until they’ve finished nursing their piglets. They can lean against the bars of the pens as they lie down—that’s to make sure they don’t accidentally lie down on top of their piglets and crush them. The pens allow farmers to monitor the piglets and sows closely during this critical time, and also include a special area next to the sow where the piglets sleep, and can be kept warm with a heat lamp or a heating pad. To learn more about how farmers keep pigs safe, visit www.FarmFood360.ca
Once they are weaned from their mothers, piglets live in groups with other pigs the same size or age. In barns built after 2014, sows live in groups too, as individual stalls are being phased out in Canada. Farmers, researchers, and other welfare experts work continually to improve how pigs are raised, and research in pig health, behaviour and housing is ongoing in Canada and around the world.
Learn more about pigs from our partner SaskPork
Learn about Pulse Crops
Pulses are the dry, edible seeds of certain plants in the legume family.
Major pulse crops grown in Canada include chickpeas, lentils, dry or field peas, faba beans, and dry beans. Most pulse crops are grown in Western Canada, but farmers in Ontario and parts of Québec are significant growers of dry beans.
Pulse crops are a low-fat, high-fibre protein powerhouse with high levels of minerals like iron, zinc, and phosphorus, as well as potassium, folate, and other B-vitamins. They’ve also been found to help lower bad types of cholesterol, and to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Pulses are also a key part of sustainable food production. They are a “nitrogen-fixing crop”—meaning that they have the potential to work with soil bacteria to draw nitrogen from the air and store it, so farmers can reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied to their field. After harvest, pulses leave behind nitrogen-rich crop residue, which can further reduce the amount of fertilizer that farmers need to apply for the next crop too.
More than 85 per cent of Canada’s pulse crops are exported annually, and they end up in 125 different countries around the world. Quick fact: Over 50 per cent of all lentils traded in the world come from Saskatchewan fields.
Learn more about pulses from our partner Lentils.org
Learn about Flax
The field of blue you might see beside the road if you’re travelling in Saskatchewan is most likely flax! The small brown or yellow flax seeds are health powerhouses—containing omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, powerful antioxidants and high-quality protein. And the strong stalks that support the plant are made of strong fibers that are used to make linen and other textiles.
Flax or as it is also referred to as linseed, has been consumed for thousands of years. Over the centuries, the production of flax spread across Europe, Africa and finally to North America where it was the first oilseed to be widely grown in Western Canada.
Today, Canada is the largest producer of flaxseed in the world, representing about 40% of world production. Saskatchewan produces the most flax in Canada.
The flax processing industry in Saskatchewan exports flax oil and flaxseed meal. The international market is important for Saskatchewan flaxseed with China, US, and the European Union being the biggest markets.
Learn more about flax from our partner SaskFlax
Learn about Wheat
Canada produces a very high quality wheat that is in demand in many places in the world. Saskatchewan is a major producer
Wheat is one of the three most produced cereal crops in the world, along with corn and rice. Canada is one of the largest wheat exporters in the world.
Within Canada, wheat is our most cultivated crop. Close to half of all Canadian wheat is grown in Saskatchewan, followed by Alberta and Manitoba.
Wheat has several uses, including flour for baked goods and pasta, and feed for livestock.
In Canada, by law, refined wheat or white flour is enriched with vitamins and minerals, to a level equal to or higher than in whole grains. Originally, the enrichment of wheat flour simply replaced nutrients lost in the refining process, but today enriched flour is fortified with a higher amount of nutrients to provide health benefits. In Canada, all refined wheat flour is fortified with thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), folic acid and iron.
Learn more about wheat from our partner
Learn about Food Science
Did you know that almost every single item of food or beverage you buy in a grocery store has been influenced by a food scientist?
Food science is a wide field of study that attempts to find knowledge and solve problems in the food system. It covers processing and preservation methods (such as drying, freezing, pasteurization, canning and extrusion, to name just a few), plus the study of food constituents, microbiology, food additives, flavor chemistry, product development, food engineering and packaging. That’s a lot of different aspects of food!
And there is constantly more to learn about in food science. A newer area of study is nutrigenomics, which looks at the relationship between the human genome, human nutrition and health.
Try your hand at food science! Here are some experiments you can try at home to learn more about your food.
Learn more from our partner
Learn about Science in Agriculture
Although a few things have stayed the same in agriculture—it’s still a family business, for example, almost everything else has changed in today’s farming. Back in 1901, one Canadian farmer could feed 10 people. Today’s farmers each produce enough food to feed 120 people! Technological advancements have made it easier to produce more food with less work.
Here are a few examples of how science has advanced farming:
- New techniques for planting help preserve the health of soils, like choosing a specific schedule of crops to plant and using direct-seeding drills that don’t disturb the soil
- Robots that milk dairy cows when the cow chooses to be milked
- Electronic ear tags that keep track of individual cattle so that beef can be traced within the food system
- Global positioning systems in tractors that allow farmers to use the right amounts of fertilizer for specific spots in the field
- Drones that farmers can use to check on their fields or livestock from far away
- Computer-controlled barns that allow farmers to monitor temperature, humidity, feed, water and ensure their animals are safe
- Biodigesters that can make manure into energy to power the farm
- New plant varieties with built-in pest-fighters
Watch the video below to see how vet students are learning (and teaching) about how to help cows deliver their calves.
Learn more about science in agriculture from our partners
Resources for Teachers and Students
Teachers and students (and lots of other people!) across Canada want to know more about food production. Food is connected to many of the big issues facing our society, including food safety, the environment, the humane treatment of farm animals, the cost of living and energy, health care and climate change, just to name a few.
Check out some of these great learning resources to learn more about food production in Canada.
- Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan
- Sun West Distance Learning Centre
- The Real Dirt on Farming
- FarmFood360 Virtual Tours
- Ag in the Classroom Canada’s snapAg factsheets
Learn more about resources for teachers and students from our partners
Learn more about Canadian Food and Farming
Food and farming are a big deal in Canada. Not only do Canadians depend on farmers to produce the food we eat, but agriculture and agri-food provide jobs for more than 2.3 million people. One in eight Canadian jobs is directly linked to the sector, which contributed $142.7 billion to our national economy in 2019, and is thus a major driver of economic growth.
Canadian farms come in all types and sizes, from small orchards and vineyards to large grain farms and cattle ranches, varying in their ability to produce food. A small piece of very fertile land can profitably grow specialty vegetables for a niche market, for example, whereas a large 5,000-acre farm in a cooler climate with poorer soil is better suited for grazing animals.