It’s important for all of us to try to make environmentally sustainable choices in our lives. All food production has impacts on the environment, both good and bad, and there are lots of questions out there about what beef farming does to our environment.
Ontario beef relies on grasslands: pastures and hay fields. We can’t produce beef without grasslands, which are recognized by government and environmental groups as extremely valuable environmental features on par with wetlands and forests. We’re proud to be caretakers of Ontario’s grasslands, which do so much more than produce beef.
Reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we all produce is important. So is increasing and maintaining the land that actually stores carbon and keeps it out of our atmosphere. Grasslands, similar to forests, store large amounts of carbon. The land used for beef farming in Canada is currently storing about 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon, which equates to 3.62 million cars’ emissions per year.
When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions being produced by beef farming, Canada’s beef production system has far fewer emissions than most other countries thanks to production efficiencies and avoiding converting land and forests. Beef farmers are also constantly adopting new technologies and innovative practices to minimize their greenhouse gas emissions. This includes feed that reduces methane emitted from cattle’s digestion, responsible manure management, efficient grazing, and reduced resource use.
Production efficiencies, innovation and new technologies mean that producing 1 kg of beef in Canada emits 15% fewer greenhouse gases today than it did 30 years ago.
The vast majority of water used to produce beef is from precipitation and rainfall – not ground/surface water and drinking water. The water is recycled through the water cycle and returned to the environment for future use. When considering how much water goes into producing beef, remember it’s mostly rainfall on those grasslands where cattle are grazing.
Canada has one of the most water-efficient beef production systems in the world: producing 1 kg of beef in Canada uses 17% less water today than it did 30 years ago, which is largely due to enhanced efficiency in growing feed for cattle and producing more beef per animal.
And when it comes to keeping our water clean, Ontario’s beef farmers follow farming practices and regulations to prevent water pollution. Grasslands managed by beef farmers reduce nutrient run-off into waterways through their permanent root systems and soil cover, which help keep nutrients in the soil and not in our water.
WILDLIFE & BIODIVERSITY
Conservation groups highly value the pastures and hay fields used to raise Ontario beef because they provide healthy plant biodiversity and hard-to-find habitat for endangered and threatened species like the bobolink and eastern meadowlark birds. Over 1,000 plant, animal and insect species make their home on land used for cattle grazing in Canada.
Biodiversity is an integral part of a healthy environment, and you won’t find the same plant and animal biodiversity in other food production systems in Ontario. Cattle can take grass from a landscape full of pollinators, birds and other wildlife, and turn it into a nutrient-rich and powerful protein. There’s simply no replicating that natural system.