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Why Is Cheese So Expensive in Canada?

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It's a struggle most Canadian dairy lovers are familiar with: Cheese up there is so expensive that a pound of cheddar can end up costing more than a pound of steak. Our neighbors to the north aren’t exaggerating when they complain about steep cheese prices—costs are sometimes three times higher than comparable products sold in the States, and it’s not because the Canadian air makes cows pump out liquid gold. It’s all thanks to a little something called supply management.

Supply management is a blanket term used to describe the policies regulating Canada’s dairy (and egg and poultry) markets. The dairy industry works differently in Canada than it does in other cheese-loving parts of the world. Both the European Union and the United States subsidize their dairy farmers—the Canadian government does not. Instead, they use other ways to get farmers the financial support they need.

Minimum price-setting for domestic dairy products keeps cheese prices above a certain mark, while strict quotas and high taxes on imports keep foreign competition under control. International cheeses account for a tiny fraction of the market, so cheese made in France, Italy, and other places abroad is difficult to find outside specialty shops. The result is more profits for Canadian producers taken straight from the consumers’ pockets come check-out time.

When supply management was introduced to Canada in the 1960s and '70s, it served a clear purpose. The policies were put in place to protect farmers from unpredictable market fluctuations and keep their livelihoods secure. Since then many of the small family farms that were originally protected under the laws have been replaced with factory farms, and the relevance of supply management is now a topic of hot debate.

The laws aren't terribly popular among citizens (even police officers have been known to help smuggle cheese across the border), and it's not just because of the high grocery bills. Opponents argue that the regulations are bad for innovation, free trade negotiations, and restaurateurs. Canadian farmers still insist the benefits outweigh the costs. On the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s web page, they write:

"While farmers around the world face unexpected and inexplicable wild market fluctuations, Canadian farmers sell their milk at constant and stable prices. As a result, Canadian dairy farming is one of the few agricultural sectors that are self-sufficient – providing income security for farmers and requiring no government subsidy. This means Canadian farmers can invest in their farms, communities and Canada."

Because farmers hold significant power in Canadian politics, supply management boasts supporters from every major party. But not all hope is lost for Canadian connoisseurs of affordable cheese. Progress on their front was made last year when a trade deal was signed slightly increasing the quota on foreign dairy imports. Consumers may benefit from the resulting price cuts, while Canadian farmers and processors will receive $4.3 billion from the government over 15 years to make up for the revenue loss. So next time you enjoy a plate of poutine, feel free to be a little less conservative with the cheese curds.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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