Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef sets sustainability strategy
New sustainability benchmarks help develop strategy to advance continuous improvement in Canadian beef industry.
October 6, 2016 By Andrew Joseph
On October 5, 2016, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) released its findings of the National Beef Sustainability Assessment and Strategy—a two-year, ‘farm-to-fork’ study that benchmarks the environmental, social, and economic performance of the Canadian beef industry.
The Assessment also lays out a strategy for the CRSB to advance sustainability efforts in the industry and measure progress going forward.
A free downloadble copy of the 2016 National Beef Sustainability Assessment And Strategy summary report can be obtained by clicking HERE.
- Canada is a very efficient beef producer in regards to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with a total footprint of 11.4 kg CO2 eq. per kilogram of live weight. From a value chain perspective, the farming stage accounts for 74 per cent of the industry’s GHG footprint, followed by consumption (10 per cent); processing (six per cent); retail and transportation (four per cent each); and packaging (one per cent);
- Approximately 19 per cent of edible bone free meat is wasted from secondary processing through to consumption because of trimming, spillage, discardment of expired meat, and other reasons;
- Land used for beef production accounts for 33 per cent of agricultural land and 68 per cent of the potential wild life habitat on the agricultural landscape. This land also currently stores approximately 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon;
- The blue water footprint of Canadian beef is 235 liters per kilogram of live weight, relatively low due to low rates of irrigation on feed and the presence of highly efficient systems. From a value chain perspective, the farming stage accounts for 74 per cent of the industry’s blue water footprint, followed by consumption (10 per cent); processing (six per cent); retail and transportation (four per cent each); and packaging (two per cent).
- Industry scored well on the social impacts related to working conditions and very well on the animal health and welfare indicators;
- Antimicrobial misuse was found to be a low risk in Canada due to the uptake of best management practices, training, and measuring and monitoring.
- The beef industry is characterized by small margins at every production stage. In 2013, cow-calf enterprises covered short-term (i.e., cash costs) and medium-term (i.e., including depreciation) costs. Three of the four typical farms also covered long-term costs (i.e., including opportunity costs). In this case, opportunity costs largely represent unpaid labor;
- Average long-term margins for a 200 head cow-herd provides an annual income of $17,559. Between 74 per cent and 85 per cent of cow/calf operations rely on off-farm income;
- The ability of the industry to distinguish between trends and fads as well as respond to consumer demands were identified as important to the economic sustainability of the beef industry.
The Assessment is the first of its kind for the Canadian beef industry, and provides a comprehensive picture of the industry’s sustainability performance at the national level, according to CRSB chair Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, a rancher from Jumping Pound, Alberta. “We examined all aspects of the value chain, from farming all the way through to consumption.”
With this science-based information, the industry will be able to communicate more effectively with partners, stakeholders and the public. Looking forward, the Sustainability Strategy will help ensure the CRSB can focus its efforts in the most appropriate areas.
Says Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada principal research scientist Dr. Tim McAllister, “It is important to have a balanced approach when assessing the beef industry’s environmental performance, understanding both the impacts and the benefits. I feel like we achieved that balance with this study because we examined a very broad range of indicators. This study is grounded in science—we made sure the best data and methods were used—and the third-party review also lends additional credibility.”
Standard environmental lifecycle topics, such as climate change, fossil fuel use, water use, and air and land pollution potentials were examined in the Assessment, along with new areas, including
biodiversity and carbon storage. The Assessment also covered a broad range of social life cycle topics, including animal health and welfare and antimicrobial use, and economic sustainability from a producer viability and consumer resiliency point of view.
“The results reflect positively on the Canadian beef industry,” notes CSRB executive director Fawn Jackson. “However, there are still opportunities for improvement, as well as areas in which industry wants to continue to excel, which is why the National Beef Sustainability Strategy was created.”
The National Beef Sustainability Assessment was conducted by two consulting firms: Deloitte (environmental and social assessments) and Canfax Research Services (economic assessment). The process and data collected followed international best practices and guidelines, and was reviewed by a third-party panel of experts.
The Sustainability Strategy identifies goals, key performance indicators, and action items for the CRSB to help advance continuous improvement in sustainability.
The goals set forth in the Sustainability Strategy and the benchmarks from the Assessment will be reviewed approximately every five years going forward, both to evaluate industry’s progress over time and to update according to new information as it becomes available.
“The social life cycle assessment results highlight the excellent practices being implemented by the Canadian beef industry. Working conditions, animal health and welfare, and antimicrobial use are all important topics for the industry. We are very proud of the results. Now we have the information we need to make further improvements and we can focus on implementing the Sustainability Strategy,” sums up Alberta Beef Producers executive director Rich Smith.
For more information on the CSRB, visit www.csrb.ca.
Image above is of the Canadian Speckled Park beef cattle, a Canadian breed originating in Sakatchewan, purchased via www.fotolia.com.