Home » Environment » Future of Food » Canadian Producers Are Leading the Way in Beef Sustainability 
Future of Food

Canadian Producers Are Leading the Way in Beef Sustainability 

Sponsored by:
Sponsored by:

A recent scientific report highlights the immense strides made by Canada’s beef industry on key sustainability indicators. 

Anchored in sustainability and forward-thinking environmental stewardship, the families that raise beef cattle in Canada, and countless others involved in bringing Canadian beef to your plate, continue to demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement — all without sacrificing the quality we know and love.

In January, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef released its second National Beef Sustainability Assessment and Strategy report. This comprehensive scientific study, backed by a peer-reviewed environmental paper, showcases major strides made by the Canadian beef sector between 2014 and 2021 in key [environmental, social, and economic] sustainability indicators.  It paints a promising picture of a sustainable, resilient future for Canada’s beef industry, backed by a robust suite of 2030 goals the industry has established to continue its journey of improvement.

Reducing the carbon footprint 

One standout achievement highlighted in the report is a 15 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to bring each kilogram of Canadian beef to the plate since 2014. This milestone is attributed to increased efficiencies, which have resulted in a smaller overall carbon footprint. By using fewer resources to produce the same amount of beef, the industry is on a steady trajectory to achieve its ambitious goal of a 33 per cent reduction in GHG emissions intensity by 2030.

This isn’t just a local success story — it aligns with global efforts to combat climate change. With practical, measurable steps toward environmental sustainability, Canadian beef farmers and ranchers are setting an example for meat industries worldwide. Because it’s not just about beef — it’s about embracing practices that contribute to a sustainable future on a global scale.

Preserving critical wildlife habitats 

Canadian beef farmers and ranchers extend their custodial responsibilities far beyond raising their animals and caring for the land — they play a pivotal role in maintaining wildlife habitats. Eighty-four per cent of land used for beef production in Canada is pastureland, which contains stunningly diverse ecosystems and maintains a much closer semblance to natural landscapes than cropland. Native grasslands, typically found in pastureland, are vital for supporting biodiversity, providing habitats for countless plant and animal species, and promoting healthier and more balanced ecosystems.

In the face of a general decline in wildlife habitat across Canada’s pasture and cropland, the proportion found on beef farms and ranches has increased, showing how important grazing cattle is for preserving wildlife habitat to support biodiversity. In fact, land used for raising cattle provides 74 per cent of the habitat wildlife need for reproducing and 55 per cent for finding food. There’s more work still to do, but the beef industry is actively working to counteract the loss of wildlife habitats as part of a broader commitment to conservation. 

Land stewardship has always been rooted in the DNA of the beef industry, and a culture of continuous improvement is propelling this ethos to new heights. 

Carbon storage in pastureland

Besides their critical role in preserving wildlife habitats, the extensive lands dedicated to raising beef cattle play a significant role in carbon storage. Keeping carbon in the soil means it can’t escape into the atmosphere. Approximately 1.9 billion tonnes of soil organic carbon are stored in land used to produce beef — 40 per cent of the total soil carbon across Canada’s agricultural landscape. That’s about the same as annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from two billion cars, or about 58 cars for every Canadian. 

It all comes down to the interaction between plants and soil in pastureland. Because land used to raise cattle sees the continuous growth and turnover of grasses, there’s constant input of organic matter into the soil. That helps maintain soil fertility — but also effectively turns the land used to produce beef into a colossal carbon storage unit. 

Beef’s socioeconomic contributions at a glance

The report also highlights the immensely positive impact of the Canadian cattle industry on the economy. Demand for Canadian beef remains robust, both domestically and internationally, with increases of 5 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively. And for every worker employed in farm-level cattle production, 2.5 workers are employed directly or indirectly in the Canadian economy. 

Broadly, the Canadian cattle industry plays a significant role in the economy, contributing $51.6 billion to the production of goods and services, $21.8 billion to the Canadian gross domestic product (GDP), and $11.7 billion in labour income.

Sustainability is a journey — not a destination. And while the industry celebrates its immense strides, it recognizes that there’s more work yet to do. The road ahead will involve addressing new challenges, exploring new technologies, and staying vigilant in the pursuit of environmental and social responsibility. With each collective effort, Canadian beef contributes to a future where the sizzle of a perfectly grilled steak isn’t just a culinary delight, but a symbol of responsible and resilient agriculture.  

Visit canadabeef.ca to learn more about how Canadian beef is shaping the future of responsible agriculture. Visit crsb.ca/nbsa to learn more about the National Beef Sustainability Assessment study.

Next article