Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Canadian beef research makes improvements, confirms industry’s environmental benefits

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Fostering long-term improvements in the beef industry is one of Canada’s beef goals for 2030, and thanks to research and Extension efforts, Canadian beef producers are improving their operations by making them more environmentally sustainable.

The Canadian beef industry is working to improve water and soil quality, support the health and safety of those throughout the supply chain, enhance beef quality and incorporate technology to strengthen producers’ bottom lines, according to the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB).

By setting these goals, the beef industry aims to build government and public support for beef production and provide a clear message on the benefits of an environmentally sustainable beef industry. 

One of the goals created by the CRSB is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 33 percent, increase carbon sequestration by 3.4 million tons per year and maintain 35 million acres of grassland currently used by beef producers, while enhancing 68 percent of wildlife habitat capacity.  

Producers reduce environmental footprint

In a recent research study conducted by the University of Manitoba’s Animal Science Department, Professor Dr. Kim Ominski and her colleagues found in 2011, Canadian beef production needed only 71 percent of the breeding herd and 76 percent of the land required to produce the same amount of liveweight for slaughter as in 1981. 

At the same time, for each kilogram of beef, Canadian cattle producers have reduced GHG emissions by 15 percent, lowered water use by 17 percent and decreased ammonia emissions by 20 percent.

Ominski cited improvements have occurred in animal productivity, including reproductive efficiency, weaning weight and carcass weight, as well as crop yields, including barley grain, barley silage, corn grain and corn silage, which has improved productivity and allows more beef to be produced from fewer cattle, less feed, land and water and reduces emissions per kilogram of beef.

The 2011 research study published in 2015 concluded, “These landscapes play a critical role in maintaining carbon stocks and biodiversity. They are important for cattle and provide habitat for many plant and animal species, including wildlife.”

Supporting the movement

Producers have always wanted to leave the land better for the next generation, but now through research, they have a better idea of what is happening with the environment and how they can make it more resilient.  

According to CRSB Chair and Rancher Ryan Beierbach of Saskatchewan, Canada, producers are more willing to provide habitat now, and their attitudes toward the environment are the most significant changes he has witnessed over the past quarter century in Canada’s beef industry.  

Canadian beef producers are proud of the fact they are the guardians of the environment, and through this continued research, they have a better understanding of how grass grows and how to manage it.  

Through Ominski’s research, producers have learned about soil and microbes, how cattle interact with it and the land’s ability to sequester carbon, improving production so producers can graze more cattle while managing the overall system to be drought resistant.

The Beef Cattle Research Council supports research and environmentally sustainable projects by bringing practical research results and solid production advice to ranchers for improvement and to help producers collaborate with local governments to offset some of the financial costs.  

The Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off has supported the research and provides Extension work, which makes a big difference in getting producers to understand more about rotational grazing and water quality.

Spreading the word

Ominski’s research revealed byproducts of the food processing sector, which may be sent to the landfill, could be utilized by producers to create high-quality protein. 

Manitoba, Canada has one of the most extensive pea processing facilities, and the byproducts are a perfect feed for ruminants, which can be converted to milk and meat.

Sustainability metrics are complex to measure but challenging to communicate to the public. Through continued research, scientists can generate science-based information they can provide to consumers so they can make food choices that are right for them.  

The information obtained through the research study is equally important for producers, as it allows them to exhibit what they have learned by producing more food with fewer resources.

Because the beef production system is complex, researchers must continue to work with producers to develop practical and cost-effective management best practices and through continued research, it can influence government programs while improving policy development.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

  • Posted in Education
  • Comments Off on Canadian beef research makes improvements, confirms industry’s environmental benefits
Back to top