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RANCH MUSINGS: Beef industry on target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction

The sector is on track to meet its goal of 33 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

The highlights of a report released last week from the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef include a reduction by the sector of 15 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions between 2014 and 2021.

This puts the sector on track to meet its goal of 33 per cent reduction by 2030.

The report includes results of three years of scientific analysis.

The first report was in 2016 which provided a baseline against which progress is measured using environmental, social, and economic parameters.

Tim McAllister is the principal researcher with Agriculture Canada.

He also reports that there was 177 kilograms less blue water (irrigation and well water) to produce one kilo of boneless and consumed beef across Canada.

Further reductions were reported in the use of fossil fuels, less fresh-water eutrophication (densification of water plant life which uses up oxygen, depriving animal life) usually associated with excess phosphorous, and less photo-chemical oxidation which causes damage to the ozone layer (atmospheric “sunscreen” for the earth).

These improvements are attributed to cattle needing less time to grow and processing using less water, feed and land.

The beef industry in Canada occupies about 40 per cent of the agricultural land while 84 per cent of that is pasture which is mostly in its natural state.

“It holds about 1.9 billion tons of soil organic carbon, storing nearly 40 per cent of the total soil organic carbon in Canada’s agricultural land …” says McAllister.

Beef producers make a significant contribution to wildlife and biodiversity which benefits life in general.

There are pressures on this land when it is converted to annual crops. Thus, there is a move to conserve more natural grasslands throughout North America. Because of the large land base of grasslands, there is no real need to convert forest land for beef production.

The backdrop to this report is the attack 20 years ago by a UN report on animal agriculture and its contribution to global warming. The industry and government have responded with increases in the amount of scientific research and the changes in strategies to produce beef with obvious positive results.

David Zirnhelt is a long-time rancher in the Cariboo