Canadian beef production is comprised of ranching (extensive production on natural grasslands and pasture) and finishing (intensive production using high-energy grain rations and modern production technologies). Starting cattle on grass and forage and then moving them to intensive grain-fed finishing yields significant environmental benefit — using less land, less water, and emitting less greenhouse gas emmisions (GHGs). This combination means we are one of the most efficient beef producers in the world. 

Key Messages on Feedlots and Beef Production and Climate Change

  • All economic and agricultural activities — including beef production — have potential to create both negative and positive environmental impacts. Cattle emit GHGs into the atmosphere, but cattle also enhance natural grasslands and pastureland through grazing, which helps that land to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Beef production does emit GHGs but it also sequesters GHGs. One acre of healthy grassland can store over 80 tonnes of carbon.
  • Beef production generates a number of positive environmental benefits such as replenishing soil, recycling nutrients, preserving and enhancing natural grasslands, improving biodiversity and wildlife habitat, and sequestering carbon in grasslands and pasture. It is inaccurate to assess beef production on one metric alone (GHG emissions) and ignore all the other environmental impacts, many of which are positive.
  • Replacing beef with plant products will move more land into cultivation. This will result in a loss of natural grasslands and carbon sequestration potential, a loss of biodiversity, and more carbon being emitted into the atmosphere. Reducing beef production and consumption will have unintended negative environmental impacts.
  • Environmental criticism of beef production stems from several high-profile studies like the 2006 UN study entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow” and the 2014 film “Cowspiracy.” It is widely acknowledged that a number of the facts, statistics, and statements in these works are incorrect and inaccurate. For example, the 2006 UN study asserted that 18% of total global GHG emissions emanated from livestock. But other studies conducted by the World Resources Institute (WRI) concludes that global GHGs generated by livestock is only 5%. Work by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US concludes that livestock generates only 2.8% of total US GHGs. Work by the University of Surrey in the UK conclude that livestock in the UK accounts for 6% of total UK GHG emissions.

CCA Statistics and Facts

  • Canadian beef has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world: 11.4 kg of C02 per 1 kg of live cattle weight.
  • Cattle contribute very little to total Canadian and global GHG emissions: GHGs from cattle are 2.4% of total Canadian GHG emissions and 0.04% of total global GHG emissions. In Canada, 28% of GHGs come from transportation.
  • Canada’s beef industry has reduced its GHG footprint by 14% between 1981 and 2011: Canada produces the same amount of beef with 29% less breeding stock, 27% less slaughter cattle, and 24% less land.
  • One-third of Canada’s agricultural land is covered in grass and forage and is not suited to cultivation. This amounts to almost 50 million acres of land, which stores billions of tonnes of carbon.
  • Most of the land on which cattle are raised cannot be used to grow crops. Raising cattle is the most productive and environmentally beneficial use of this land.

Key Points Related to Cattle Feeding

  • Cattle feeding represents the intensive side of beef production. Intensive production results in a significantly reduced environmental footprint using less land, less water, and emitting less GHGs compared to extensive livestock production.
    (Steinfeld, Henning; Gerber, Pierre; Wassenaar, Tom; Castel, Vincent; Rosales, Mauricio; De Haan, Cees. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). Pages xx-xiv.)
  • Even the 2006 UN study Livestock’s Long Shadow, points out that more intensive livestock production “opens up large opportunities for climate change mitigation.” The report goes on to assert that “intensification — in terms of increased productivity both in livestock production and in feed crop agriculture — can reduce greenhouse gas emissions…”
    (Steinfeld, Henning; Gerber, Pierre; Wassenaar, Tom; Castel, Vincent; Rosales, Mauricio; De Haan, Cees. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). Pages xxi-xxii.)
  • Beef production in Canada and the US is comprised of ranching (extensive production on natural grasslands and pasture) and finishing (intensive production using high-energy grain rations and modern production technologies). This combination means that we are one of the most efficient beef producers in the world. Our production practices should be considered as a model for the rest of the world.
    (Critical Analysis of Livestock’s Long Shadow. 2009. Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.)
  • The environmental benefits of intensive production, high-energy grain rations, and modern production technologies are significant. Grass-fed cattle will produce about four times more methane (a GHG 23 times more potent than C02) than grain-fed cattle. Starting cattle on grass and forage and then moving to intensive grain-fed finishing yields significant environmental benefit.
    (Harper, L.A.; Denmead, O.T.; Freney, J.R.; Byers, F.M. 1999. Direct Measurements of Methane Emissions from Grazing and Feedlot Cattle in Journal of Animal Science. Vol. 77, Issue 6. Pages 1392-1401.)
  • Intensive beef production in the feedlot converts food stuffs and various by-products that might otherwise be wasted to produce a high-protein food. Examples of such ‘waste’ that is converted into beef include feeding cattle distillers grains, canola meal, barley and wheat straw, and corn stover (i.e. stalks, leaves, and cobs left after harvest). Grains that do not meet the standards for human consumption — feed grains — are also fed to cattle. Cattle feeders also feed off-grade sources such as potatoes, carrots, and by-products of food processing such as potato slurry. Reducing waste by converting it to productive use generates considerable environmental benefit. In fact, over 85% of all feed for cattle is unfit for human consumption and would be entirely wasted if not fed to cattle. And, only 9% of Canada’s cultivated cropland is used to grow feed crops specifically for cattle.
    (Mottat, A; De Haan, C; Falcucci, A. Tempio, G; Opio, C; Gerber, 2017. Livestock: On our Plates or Eating at our Table? A New Analysis of the Feed/Food Debate in Global Food Security. No. 14. Elsevier. Pages 1-8.)
  • Alberta’s cattle feeders are investing in research to continually improve on their environmental commitment. A good example is how ACFA recently provided funding to test out a new feed additive that has potential to reduce enteric emissions of methane. The field testing is currently underway and is designed to measure the effects of the additive that was developed, at the Lethbridge Research Station, in partnership with a feed company in Switzerland.



  • An antimicrobial is any agent that is used to treat microbial infection.
  • An antibiotic is one type of antimicrobial, specifically made from natural microorganisms.
  • When looking at the safety or issues of using antibiotics in beef cattle, it makes the most sense to discuss the use of antimicrobials as a whole; rather than only antibiotics.
  • All cattle are given antibiotics – with veterinarian oversight – when they are sick. There is a withdrawal period of 20 to 30 days after treatment, so that no trace of the antibiotic remains in the meat. All feedlots adhere to this withdrawal period.
  • When an animal is sick, or at risk from disease, it would be cruel to withhold treatment.
  • As an added step of food safety oversight, meat at processing plants is regularly tested for residues on an ongoing basis as part of quality assurance and compliance monitoring.
  • Health Canada’s Veterinary Drug Directorate (HC-VDD) evaluates and monitors the safety, quality, and effectiveness, sets standards, and promotes the prudent use of veterinary drugs administered to food-producing and companion animals.

There are four main reasons for the use of antimicrobials in feedlots:

  1. To treat disease — such as respiratory disease, arthritis and other lameness, abscesses, etc., are effectively treated with antimicrobials in injectable or oral form
  2. After surgery or injury — used to prevent infection in individual animals after specific events
  3. As a preventative — antimicrobials help prevent outbreaks that could spread through the herd
  4. To improve growth and production — the use of antimicrobials have historically been used to improve rumen function and enhance growth and production of meat, but this use is declining, and becoming increasingly regulated, due to the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

There are three main health implications when antimicrobials are withheld:

  1. Poor animal welfare – animals would become sick or die
  2. Greater potential for spreading of disease among animals in a pen
  3. Food safety concerns increase because animals are more likely to have infections when sent to slaughter

Source: Dr. Sherry Hannon, research team lead and veterinary epidemiologist at Feedlot Health Management Services Ltd.


Why are hormones used in beef?

  1. To manage the breeding cycles of heifers/cows — Heifers or cows that calve outside the normal calving cycle can be missed for assistance if they have calving problems, putting both the heifer and the calf at health risk
  2. To control estrus (when the animal is in heat) in feedlot heifers — When heifers go into heat they often ‘ride’ each other, risking injury to the animals and damage to the meat
  3. To promote growth — cattle gain weight faster, or eat less feed to gain the same weight, the cost of producing each pound of beef is less, resulting in savings for the producer and consumer. More feed-efficient animals with a shorter feeding/fattening period also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so cattle given growth-promoting products are more environmentally friendly.

What are the health implications of hormone use for beef cattle? 

Pharmaceutical companies must conduct a lot of research and provide that data to Health Canada’s Veterinary Drug Directorate, to ensure they are safe for cattle usefood supply, and the environment. Only then, will the government register the products so that pharmaceutical companies can sell the products to producers for use in cattle.

The Veterinary Drug Directorate also provides legally established withdrawal periods which producers must follow before beef cattle can be shipped for processing. These withdrawal times ensure that there are no hormones in the meat that are unsafe for human consumption.

The truth about hormones

  • All beef sold in Canada is inspected before it is shipped to slaughter.
  • All beef must meet Health Canada’s meat drug withdrawal periods for any products they’ve been given, to ensure the beef is safe for all Canadians.
  • It’s important to remember that all beef naturally has hormones in it — just as humans have naturally-produced hormones in their own bodies.
  • Performance enhancing technologiesimprove reproductive efficiency and growth, reduce the costs of production and support our beef sustainability initiatives, both for producers and the consuming public.

Source: Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed of Alberta Beef Health Solutions

Further information on the national standards for the care of beef cattle is located at



Manual of Procedures
Livestock Identification and Traceability Program (Version 3f)

The purpose of a Manual of Procedures is to help the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspectors in verifying compliance and enforcing regulations it administers. Please find attached a revised Manual of Procedures for requirements under Part XV of the Health of Animals Regulations dealing with animal identification and traceability.

Livestock Identification and Traceability program
Canadian Food Inspection Agency / Government of Canada


Below, are two premises identification (PID) support tools for your team’s reference and use, in preparation for expected livestock traceability regulations.

  • The first file provides a text-based, unbranded update that may be used in full, part or even modified (in order to fit into your communications mix).
  • The second attachment is a high-resolution image file that is ready-for-use in print or online, as is.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information or resources at any time – we warmly welcome your contact.

Kind thanks for your attention,


Kori Maki-Adair
Communications Manager
Canadian Cattle Identification Agency  |  1-877-909-2333
P 403-476-1984  |  C 403-703-5575  |  F 403-275-2099  |  E
7646 – 8 Street N.E. Calgary, A.B. Canada T2E 8X4

PREMISES IDENTIFICATION: Expected regulatory changes

Lost profits: Injection site lesions cost the industry $1.63 million: New Video

Injection site lesions visible on the carcass surface have increased to nearly 14% of non-fed cattle and 8% of fed cattle. Even in areas that are inches away from injection sites can result in tissue damage causing tougher meat and lower eating quality. As a result, injection site lesions cost the industry $0.56/head or $1.63 million in 2016. That’s up considerably from 0.21/head or $662,951 in 2011.

Read Full Blog and watch videos


How a Union gets certified

Employer Rights

July 3, 2018

The Government of Alberta’s OHS website has been updated to reflect last week’s announcement and can be accessed here for your reference.

The web site provides access to the following links:

Learn the rules

We’re working with AgSafe Alberta to provide resources and information to help you implement health and safety rules on your farm.

How Alberta’s Employment Standards apply to farms and ranches

The GOA Communications Director for Alberta Labour, Andrew Hanon, advises that an information booklet and accompanying poster have been compiled to explain at a summary level, the upcoming employment standards for farms and ranches that take effect January 1, 2018. In the PDF attached for your reference, the first page can be folded into the booklet, and the second page is the poster that can be used for reference purposes.

The poster is available for download at:

and the GOA will send on printed copies free of charge to any producer groups and their members that request it. Requests can be directed to:

Tel 780-644-1964

Cell 780-217-1218

Moving Manure? Two Guides to Help Out

Moving manure is an important consideration for livestock operations. From Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, two detailed guides on the subject, including hauling on roads, and crossing roads with draglines.



When undercover video investigations of alleged farm animal abuse surface, our Animal Care Review Panel is on hand to provide the public a balanced assessment. Comprised of recognized animal care specialists, the panels include experts such as veterinarians, animal scientists, and ethicists who provide balanced expert perspectives for food retailers and the media.

For more information, contact

Social license and public trust…connecting the dots from farm gates to dinner plates

Research leading to new information on feedlot ammonia emissions

Media Release

Financial support available for cattle producers affected by Bovine TB

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has provided information on existing programs that could potentially assist producers affected by the TB quarantine.

Program Options

Funding available for beef sector in Alberta

The Livestock Welfare Delivery Agent Program promotes the use of best practices and technologies

Program participants — who can be individuals, companies, non-profits, or post-secondary institutions — will be reimbursed for up to 100 per cent of eligible costs, subject to a maximum of $300,000 per application and $300,000 per applicant per fiscal year.

Full Article Here

Changes to the Animal Health Act and Regulations

Alberta’s Chief Provincial Veterinarian would like to remind Alberta’s producers, agriculture industry, and partners about changes to the Animal Health Act and regulations, which came into effect in June of 2014.

Attached is some information describing what these changes mean to cattle producers and how to find out more. 

If you have any questions about using this information, please contact Dr. Hussein Keshwani, Animal Health and Welfare Veterinarian, or Christina Bruce in our communications branch.

The involvement of our partners continues to be a vital part of helping us provide information to those who are most affected by these changes. Thank you for your continued support.

Changes to Animal Health Legislation

Letter on Farm Safety to Hon. Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from Page Stuart, Past Chair of ACFA Board of Directors

ACFA Letter from Chair Stuart to Minister Carlier on Farm Safety (14-08-15)

Complete ACFA Letter from Chair Stuart to Minister Carlier on Farm Safety (14-08-15) — three pages in total

CleanFARMS’ Obsolete Collection Campaign

CleanFARMS’ Obsolete Collection Campaign is taking place between October 26-30, 2015 in 20 locations across Alberta. This will give farmers (at no charge) the opportunity to return unwanted or obsolete pesticides and food animal medications.

CleanFARMS Obsolete Pesticides Poster (AB)_WEB CleanFARMS Obsolete Pesticides Brochure (AB)

Regulatory consultation on traceability

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is advancing proposed amendments to Part XV (Animal Identification) of the Health of Animals Regulations through a second round of stakeholder consultations. The proposed amendments consist mainly of requirements for identifying and reporting the movement of bison, bovine, caprine, cervid, ovine and pigs. The authority for the proposed amendments is provided under the Health of Animals Act.

This second round of consultation is launched today with an anticipated end date of 26 June 2015. Comments on the proposed requirements together with responses to questions raised during the consultation are to be submitted to the following email address:

Please click on links below to view the following consultation documents:

1- Executive Summary of Consultation documents

2- Overview on a federal livestock identification and traceability regulatory proposal. Second round of consultation: Consultation paper

3- Livestock identification and traceability regulatory proposal. Reference document for second round of consultations

4- Evaluation of Three Livestock Movement Reporting Options to Support Tracing Investigations Following a Sanitary Issue in Canada.

An overview of the consultation documents will be presented through a webinar session on 19 May 2015. Proposed species-specific or site-specific requirements will be presented through additional webinar sessions and meetings. Information on these venues will be provided later this week.

Executive Summary of Consultation Documents 2015-05

Consultation document for 2nd round 2015-05

Reference document for 2nd consultation 2015-05

Evaluation of movement reporting option – 2015-05

New Canada Beef Roundup App

A new app from Canada Beef aims to inspire shoppers to get out of their comfort zones when it comes to meat. “Our research shows consumers tend to be one-trick-ponies — one cut always cooked one way,” says Joyce Parslow, director of consumer marketing at Canada Beef. With the Roundup App (Android and iOS compatible), consumers will be able to research different cuts, compare how tender they are, and learn how to cook them properly — all while standing at the meat counter. “It’s like having a mobile cuts chart with you at all times.”

The app is set to launch this spring via print and online promotional campaigns. Parslow says the goal is to get 8,000 downloads in the first month with steady growth thereafter.

Beneficial Management Practices

Environmental Manual for Feedlot Producers in Alberta

Feedlot Environmental BMP Manual

“This manual — produced by myself with AARD — will be of help to anyone participating in McDonald’s VSB program.” ~Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed

Cattle Medicine – Responsible Use Course

The Cattle Medicine – Responsible Use Course was developed in 2005 as a joint venture between Alberta Beef Quality Starts Here and Alberta Milk and was made possible through financial support provided by Alberta Livestock Industry Development Fund.

This course provides producers with the basic pre-requisite medication/animal health information needed, as a foundation of knowledge, to help them implement the standard operating procedures of the beef and dairy on-farm food safety programs.

Cattle veterinarians can also use the course as an educational tool to ensure their clients use animal health products wisely. This will help veterinarians meet their legal obligations for a valid veterinary-clients-patient relationship.

“The main reason we developed the manual was because there was a lack of basic cattle medicine information available for producers in one manual,” states Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed, co-author of the Cattle Medicine – Responsible Use Course. “As well, from a production perspective, understanding how to use animal medicines properly will ensure producers don’t waste money on use of inappropriate drugs, and to maximize therapeutic responses.”

CLICK HERE to download Introduction, Course Modules, Appendices, and Videos.

What Beef Producers Need to Know about Antimicrobial Use and Resistance


Canada’s Beef Industry unites to develop National Beef Strategy

CLICK HERE to view the press release.

Visit the website at

National Beef Strategy - Part 1

National Beef Strategy - Part 2

Links to presentations from Social Licence in Ag Conference

ACFA CEO Bryan Walton, Chair Page Stuart, and Communications Manager Shannon Lyons attended this conference that was held on March 11 and 12 in Leduc, AB.


Earning Your Social Licence in the Age of Radical Transparency and Unbridled Social Media – Charlie Arnot, Center for Food Integrity

 We’re Only As Good As They Think We Are – Jeffrey Fitzpatrick-Stilwell, McDonald’s Canada

Activist Influences on Public Perceptions: Challenges & Opportunities – Kay Johnson-Smith, Animal Agriculture Alliance

Sustainability and Social Licence at Loblaws Bob Chant, Loblaw Companies Limited


Aligning Social Value and Engaging Consumers – Carrie Selin, Taste Alberta

The Social Licence of Food Production Ted Menzies, Crop Life Canada

Social Licence in Dairy Farming: the proAction® Initiative – Guy Séguin, Dairy Farmers of Canada

(open in Windows Internet Explorer… all photos will appear)

Are Farmers Good & Ready for Everybody? Karla Bergstrom, Alberta Canola Producers Commission

Islands of Angst: Recent Ag Social License Lessons From Hawaii for Alberta – Steve Savage, speaker/writer/myth buster

Building public trust – a Canadian model Kim McConnell, Alberta Livestock & Meat Agency (ALMA) Board member

ACFA Beef Value Chain 15.07.04 copy
ACFA Industry Profile 15.07.04 copy

Funding available for beef sector in Alberta

The Livestock Welfare Delivery Agent Program promotes the use of best practices and technologies

Program participants — who can be individuals, companies, non-profits, or post-secondary institutions — will be reimbursed for up to 100 per cent of eligible costs, subject to a maximum of $300,000 per application and $300,000 per applicant per fiscal year.

Full Article Here

Funding available for beef sector in Alberta

The Livestock Welfare Delivery Agent Program promotes the use of best practices and technologies

Program participants — who can be individuals, companies, non-profits, or post-secondary institutions — will be reimbursed for up to 100 per cent of eligible costs, subject to a maximum of $300,000 per application and $300,000 per applicant per fiscal year.

Full Article Here

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