Animal care is a core value of Ontario’s beef farmers. From birth to market, we raise healthy cattle and provide them with a comfortable quality of life 365 days a year.
Ontario’s beef farmers’ commitment to the welfare of our animals is reflected in industry-led initiatives such as the National Farm Animal Care Council’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle as well as the Verified Beef Production Plus program, which audits on animal care. Cattle always have access to ample food and water, fresh air, space to move around, and shelter from the elements.
We’re also always learning, researching and developing new strategies to improve the quality of life for our cattle. Today’s beef farmers have a much greater understanding of animal behaviour, which has allowed for improved on-farm practices that help alleviate potential cattle distress.
WHAT BEEF CATTLE EAT
Here in Ontario, we ensure our beef cattle receive a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements – this is one of the most important aspects of their daily care, as their diet affects growth, health, and the quality of beef produced.
All beef cattle spend the majority of their lives eating fresh and dried grasses as well as other forages. Many are also fed locally grown grains such as corn and wheat because they provide a good source of protein to the animals.
ANTIBIOTIC AND HORMONE USE
As farmers, we work with our veterinarians to develop herd health plans and care for any sick cattle, including using antibiotics when appropriate and necessary. This is the humane thing to do and important for animal welfare. However, like all beef in Canada, Ontario beef is subject to rigorous food safety measures and inspection, such as residue testing and regulatory oversight before it ever reaches your plate.
All beef is free of antibiotics. A specific withdrawal time must pass after the last treatment to ensure there is no antibiotic residue left in the beef before processing and consuming. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency regularly tests for antibiotic residue, and over 99.9% of beef tests free from residue. If residues are found, the beef is not allowed to enter the food chain.
Hormone implants are small, slow-release pellets placed under the skin in an animal’s ear to enhance production of natural hormones. Using hormone implants directs the animal’s growth towards muscle and away from fat, which boosts the growth rate and means less feed is needed for the animal to gain weight. The result is fewer resources used to produce beef, with smaller impacts on the environment.
Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the United Nations all conclude the use of hormones is a safe practice that does not harm human health. Additionally, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency takes random samples of beef to ensure hormone levels are within the normal range.