The availability of certified humane beef has been a hot topic in the last few days, and that’s not a discussion we plan to wade into here. But if the debate has got you wondering about animal husbandry practices — as they pertain to beef — we’ve got answers for you.
Here are three things you may not realize about Canada’s beef industry:
#1 Healthy animals are worth more
Cattle feeders care about the welfare of their animals for many different reasons — not the least of which, it’s the right thing to do. But perhaps the simplest point to understand is that healthy animals, cared for in a low-stress environment, grow better. Sick, stressed animals don’t make for a profitable business.
#2 Many programs: same level of animal care
Although cattle feeders are diligent in their daily routine of animal care, it’s become increasingly clear that they must be able to demonstrate their animal care protocols to Canadians. So, although guidelines for animal care have been established for many years, a number of programs have been developed with a special focus on animal care. Some initiatives include:
- The National Farm Animal Care Council has created an animal health and welfare guide which is used by cattle feeders as the minimal animal care standard. This Canadian Beef Code of Practice was updated in consultation with stakeholders such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and it supports the use of antibiotics, with veterinary oversight, to humanely treat sick animals. We don’t want sick animals to suffer needlessly. We want them to get better and live a healthy, productive life. As well, healthy cattle means safe beef for you.
- The Beef Cattle Research Council is an industry-led funding agency for beef research. One of their five stated objectives is to “ensure the integrity and high standards of animal health in the Canadian herd”. Check out the FAQs on BCRC’s website for answers to some of the most common questions about beef research.
- The Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program is PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization) certified, and it is a fully auditable code of practice — recognized by the National Farm Animal Care Council — that sets expectations and criteria for animal care in feedlots across Canada. Developed by the National Cattle Feeders’ Association in collaboration with the SPCA, animal welfare specialists both from the government and industry, veterinarians, auditors, and producers, it gives feedlot operators a detailed set of animal care benchmarks and a way to prove they are following the animal care practices in the Canadian Beef Code of Practice.
#3 Certified standards are not necessarily ‘new’ standards
For many feedlot operators, codes of practice and auditing programs haven’t changed anything about the way they care for their animals. Audit programs do provide documented proof of their existing and ongoing commitment to animal safety — they transparently show that producers raise and care for their animals in a healthy, low-stress environment.
You can read more about animal care in these previous blog posts:
Stay tuned for next week on this blog, when we will explain more about the Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment program.