Valuation of Country Food in Nunavut Based on Energy and Protein Replacement




Communicating value across the pluralities of Indigenous Peoples’ food systems requires attention to economy and environment, food and wildlife, and the health of the people and that of the land. Valuation of distinct entities is always difficult but often essential to describe collective wealth and well-being, to quantify trade-offs, and to consider compensation when one is compromised for another. Here we estimate the replacement value of Nunavut country food by combining information on the amount and nutritional composition of harvested country food with the nutritional content and local price of store-bought food. Comparing the five-year average of energy and protein available in reported harvest to recommended dietary allowances indicates that 17 of 21 Nunavut communities harvest enough country food to satisfy the protein requirements of all community members. Nunavut’s country food system annually harvests five million kg of protein-rich food from across the territory, which would cost $198 million to purchase as store-bought protein, with a replacement value between $13.19 and $39.67 per kg depending on energy versus protein replacement and the inclusion versus exclusion of store-bought food subsidies. These valuations are higher than most previous estimates of local food value because they are more reflective of the energy and nutrient richness of country food and the high price of store-bought food in northern communities. The country food system is priceless in many, profound ways; better awareness of its energy and protein cost of replacement, together with the breadth of its nutritional and cultural value, may help to ensure local food systems are prioritized in northern food security and economic development initiatives.