5 Things You Need To Know About Canadian Beef & Sustainability In 2020
Whether you've watched the news, browsed online, or taken part in a deep conversation with a friend, you've likely thought about the impact your food choices have on the environment.
The topic of eating to minimize climate change is often front and centre when we talk about red meat. Is it sustainable? Is it ethically produced? Am I destroying the planet?
Being conscious of the impact that our diets have on the environment seems more top of mind than ever, and it makes total sense — it’s complicated!
The topic of food sustainability has many angles to it and data can be drastically different from region to region. It isn't black and white: everything we eat impacts the environment both positively and negatively — there's no way around it. There's a growing discussion about the eco-service benefits when it comes to how beef is raised in our country. Context is everything, and certainly in Canada, beef is more sustainable than you may think.
1. Pastureland Isn't A Waste Of Good Agricultural Land
Did you know cattle and conservation are naturally connected? Ranching land usually can't be used for other crops, and without cattle grazing, healthy grasslands wouldn't thrive. By grazing, cattle help sustain healthy grasslands which in turn aids carbon storage in the soil, prevents erosion, and supports biodiversity.
Another benefit of cattle grazing: it reduces the amount of fuel available for wildfires to latch onto. It helps keep underbrush down in wooded areas; basically, cleaning up the forest from overgrowth and decreasing forest fire fuel.
Eliminating cattle would mean eliminating vital ecosystems. For more information, check out the Guardians of the Grasslands documentary.
2. Cattle Consume Crops That Can’t Be Eaten By Humans
While 80% of cattle feed comes from forage and grasslands, only 9% of Canadian cropland is used for growing cattle feed. The majority of the grain eaten by cattle doesn't meet the standards for human consumption but, by using it as feed, it doesn't go to waste.
Another way that cattle help minimize waste? They get fed bi-products (aka waste) from food processing, like pea screenings and distiller's grains.
3. Eating Habits Can Make A Difference To Sustainability
There are things we can all do to have a positive impact on food sustainability, such as eating recommended serving sizes. Overeating is a form of food waste and larger portions also mean higher greenhouse gas emissions.
Focus on eating more real food instead of ultra-processed stuff; the more processing involved in food production, the more consequences it has on the environment. Plus, a diet heavy in processed food (which the new food guide recommends limiting) runs the risk of being higher in sodium, fat, and calories.
Wasting food has negative environmental impacts as well, so try to only buy what you need and use what you buy. Meal planning, creating shopping lists, and eating leftovers are great ways to reduce waste daily.
4. Beef Is Local
Beef is raised right here by Canadian families. There are approximately 60,000 beef ranches across Canada in each province with an average herd size of only 69 cattle.
Buying and eating local is an important way to reduce environmental impact as long as the food grown is suited to the landscape and the climate. For example, growing oranges in PEI could be done, but the inputs required would do more environmental damage than getting them from Florida. Raising beef is suited to Canada’s climates in every provincial region — so beef fits the bill!
5. Greenhouse Gas Emissions In Canada: Where Cattle Fit In
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding beef is the number of greenhouse gasses that beef farming produces, but raising cattle in Canada accounts for approximately 2.4% of greenhouse gas emissions — compare that to 28% from transportation.
Did you notice how clear the air became all over the world when we stopped commuting during the pandemic’s early lockdown days?
There's still work to do, but there's progress in sustainability that’s being made when it comes to raising beef.
Between 1981 and 2014, the Canadian beef industry reduced its greenhouse gas footprint by 14% per kg of beef through advancements in technology and management. Research also shows that conservation efforts have led to a 20% decrease in the amount of ground and surface water used to produce beef in 2011 compared to 1981, so we're making strides.
Pair our focus on sustainability with wide-open landscapes and hardworking farmers, and it's no wonder why Canada is recognized as a world leader in quality beef that’s sustainably raised.