As we look to the future, we know that our industry has an important role to play in being part of the solution for climate change. That’s why, building on the five-year goals that were outlined in the 2020-24 National Beef Strategy, the Canadian beef industry has now identified a suite of ambitious 10-year goals that provide clear messaging about the process to continually improve how cattle are raised and enhance the natural environments under the care of beef farmers and ranchers.
You may recall the first three goals were released in September 2020. They looked at greenhouse gas and carbon sequestrations, animal health and welfare, and land use and biodiversity. Recently, in April 2021, the second phase of these goals was announced addressing improvements in water and soil quality, supporting the health and safety of people throughout the supply chain, improving beef quality and incorporating technology to improve efficiencies. The goal topics recognize the breadth of benefits from beef production beyond supplying global protein demand.
This entire suite of long-term goals highlights the work of the Canadian beef industry as integral for climate change mitigation, supporting communities, embracing innovation, and the overall sustainability of our food system.
We want Canadians to know that we share their concerns around climate change and the need for a resilient food supply. Raising cattle in Canada is good for the environment and these goals demonstrate how we are striving to make every sector of the industry even better.
The wide variety of topics covered in the long-term goals underscores the vast benefits of raising beef cattle in Canada, beyond supplying global protein demand. They also address all five of the principles of beef sustainability adopted here in Canada — natural resources, people and community, animal health and welfare, food, and efficiency and innovation. These goals were developed collaboratively and iteratively, receiving feedback from multiple stakeholder groups to inform and refine these goals so they are ambitious but attainable.
The group responsible for the overall delivery of the goals is the Canadian Beef Advisors, which consists of elected leaders and staff representation of the seven national beef organizations responsible for policy, marketing, research and sustainability. These organizations include the Beef Cattle Research Council, Canada Beef, National Cattle Feeders’ Association, Canadian Meat Council, Canadian Beef Breeds Council, Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). They are a diverse group of experienced industry representatives, who are responsible for advancing the strategy with the industry stakeholders, providing recommendations on future direction and reporting results against the strategy, goals and objectives.
You can learn more about the vision and goals for the Canadian cattle and beef industry by visiting Canada's National Beef Strategy. I encourage you to check out the website as there are great resources, descriptive infographics and videos that take a deep dive into the strategy.
Further on the topic of sustainability, I was delighted that CCA recently had the opportunity to co-lead discussions about issues affecting the Canadian beef industry to share with a global audience.
CCA and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) hosted a virtual conversation series in anticipation of the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit taking place this fall. The discussion explored the vital role that grazing livestock play in providing both nutritious and nature-positive solutions for Canada.
Over three days, participants heard from a range of experts spanning the breadth of the supply chain, from production to consumption. Unique to these UN dialogues is how they emphasize small-group discussion, an opportunity for attendees to further explore concepts introduced by the experts during the plenary session. More than 100 diverse stakeholders came together over three days for a bold, solutions-oriented conversation on best practices and to reflect on continuous improvement. Let me tell you, the sessions were engaging, informative and brought up key issues affecting the beef industry and other grazing livestock in Canada.
The themes discussed throughout the sessions included the importance of collaboration, the need for regional approaches and diversity of production systems, the usefulness of measurable benchmarks and the nutritional importance of beef in the diet. CCA and NCC’s dialogue is in response to a global narrative to reduce meat consumption.
It is CCA’s firm belief that maintaining meat consumption would support the UN Food Systems Summits’ goal of improving the food system. Grazing livestock contributes to the environmental, social and economic fabric of Canada — the three facets that make up the definition of sustainability.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and learned a lot. I look forward to seeing what ideas and issues were generated in similar discussions in other countries around the world.
This is only the beginning of CCA’s work on the United Food Systems Summit, which takes place this fall. The insight and feedback gathered from the sessions will be analyzed and formally provided to the United Nations. This is the first step of many to ensure the Canadian grazing livestock perspective is heard by the international forum. Stay tuned for further updates later this year. In the meantime, you can read more about the summit on its website.
Bob Lowe is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.