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How climate change led one Perth baker to sell smaller loaves

Graham Beck says prairie temperature rise can mean dough doesn’t

A man stands by the road in winter.

Graham Beck stands outside his bakery in Perth, Ont. He warned his customers to expect small, dense loaves as a result of the blazing hot temperatures western Canada faced last summer.

Photo: Submitted by Graham Beck

RCI

They say a half a loaf is better than none, but a Perth, Ont., baker isn't so sure his customers will agree.

For the first time in 30 years, Graham Beck is baking smaller loaves in his ovens, and he thinks the problem can be linked directly to climate change.

I'd be surprised if my customers would tolerate it for a very long time, said Beck, founder of the Little Stream Bakery. 

While the bakery sources most of its heritage grains from Ontario, Beck and his small team gets Kamut, a wheat species, from the prairies. 

The grain requires a drier climate, Beck said — but not the scorching temperatures western Canada experienced this summer.

Coupled with COVID-19 supply shortages, Beck was forced to secure his Kamut, also known as khorasan wheat, from a new supplier. 

It was kind of like a lump and, sure enough, the bread didn't rise much, he said Tuesday. And we had to work with it because that's all we could get.

Four loaves of bread of different sizes.

Beck says climate change and COVID-19 supply chain issues have resulted in his bakery selling smaller Kamut loaves. The ones on the far left and second from the right were made with the poor quality flour.

Photo: Submitted by Graham Beck

Beck said the only way to improve the dough's sad state was to use loaf pans that were two-thirds the size.

We weren't happy about it, he said. But we had two choices: make it the way we could with what we had or not make it.

The baker even called Kamut International, which owns the Kamut trademark, and was told the harsh weather affected U.S. farms even worse.

What struck Beck most was the chain effect: the changing climate leading to inconsistent weather, and ultimately resulting in his dough not rising in his ovens. 

This strikes me as something we might be seeing more of, he said.

Moreover, he said smaller businesses like his are more likely to struggle to find supplies during uncertain times like a pandemic. 

Luckily, Beck has secured a sample batch of Kamut from another supplier, which so far has led to fuller loaves. 

For now, Beck is warning customers on social media (new window) to expect dense Kamut loaves and explaining that securing quality grains at fair prices may be harder in the coming years.

We have to really be looking at the big picture and food security, he said. And what we can do to look more locally, have alternative supplies, [and] be working to support farmers. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joseph Tunney  (new window)· CBC News

Joe Tunney reports for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca

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