Country food, in Canada, refers to the traditional diets of Indigenous peoples (known in Canada as First Nations, Metis, and Inuit), especially in remote northern regions where Western food is an expensive import, and traditional foods are still relied upon.
The Government of the Northwest Territories estimated in 2015 that nearly half of N.W.T. residents in smaller communities relied on country food for 75% of their meat and fish intake, in larger communities the percentage was lower, with the lowest percentage relying on country foods (4%) being in Yellowknife, the capital and only "large community". The most common country foods in the NWT's area include mammals and birds (caribou, moose, ducks, geese, seals, hare, grouse, ptarmigan), fish (lake trout, char, inconnu (coney), whitefish, pike, burbot) and berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, cloudberries).
In the eastern Canadian Arctic, Inuit consume a diet of foods that are fished, hunted, and gathered locally. This may include caribou, walrus, ringed seal, bearded seal, beluga whale, polar bear, berries, and fireweed.
The cultural value attached to certain game species, and certain parts, varies. For example, in the James Bay region, a 1982 study found that beluga whale meat was principally used as dog food, whereas the blubber, or muktuk was a "valued delicacy". Value also varies by age, with Inuit preferring younger ring seals, and often using the older ones for dog food.
Contaminants in country foods are a public health concern in Northern Canada; volunteers are tested to track the spread of industrial chemicals from emitters (usually in the South) into the northern food web via the air and water.
In 2017, the Government of the N.W.T. committed to using country foods in the soon-to-open Stanton Territorial Hospital, despite the challenges of obtaining, inspecting, and preparing sufficient quantities of wild game and plants.
In Southern Canada, wild foods (especially meats) are actually relatively rare in restaurants, due to wildlife conservation rules against selling hunted meat, as well as strict meat inspection rules. Therefore there is a cultural divide between rural and remote communities that rely on wild foods, and urban Canadians (the majority), who have little or no experience with them.
- Usher, Peter J. "Evaluating Country Food in the Northern Native Economy" (PDF). pp. 105–120. Missing or empty
- Wein, Eleanor E.; et al. (1990). "Food Consumption Patterns and Use of Country Foods by Native Canadians near Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada". Arctic. 44 (3): 196–206. doi:10.14430/arctic1539.
- http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/sites/enr/files/weights_of_wildlife.pdf "in deriving estimates of the economic value of wildlife used as food (known in northern Canada as country food or traditional food)..." page 2
- http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/sites/enr/files/weights_of_wildlife.pdf page 16
- Ashley, pg 22