How climate change led a Perth baker to sell smaller loaves

They say half a loaf is better than nothing, but a baker in Perth, Ont., isn’t sure his customers will agree.

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

“I would be surprised if my customers tolerated it for very long,” said Beck, founder of Little Stream Bakery.

While the bakery sources most of its traditional grains from Ontario, Beck and his small team source Kamut, a species of wheat, from the Prairies.

The grain requires a drier climate, Beck said, but not the scorching temperatures western Canada has 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 piece and of course the bread didn’t rise very much,” he said on Tuesday. “And we had to work with it because that’s all we could get.”

Beck says climate change and supply chain issues related to COVID-19 have led his bakery to sell smaller Kamut loaves. The ones on the far left and second from the right were made with poor quality flour. (Submitted by Graham Beck)

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

“We weren’t happy,” he said. “But we had two choices: do it the way we could with what we had or not do it.”

The baker even called Kamut International, owner of the Kamut brand, and was told that the bad weather was affecting American farms even more.

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

“It seems to me like something we could see more of,” he said.

Additionally, he said small businesses like his are more likely to struggle to source supplies during times of uncertainty like a pandemic.

Luckily, Beck got a sample batch of Kamut from another vendor, which has resulted in more wholesome loaves so far.

For now, Beck is warning customers on social media to expect dense Kamut breads and explains that it may be more difficult to guarantee quality cereals at fair prices in years to come.

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

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