Consumers get a side of carbon with their beef

Industry leaders say beef production plays an important role in carbon sequestration that is not well known by consumers


By Doug Ferguson, The Western Producer (Canada)

October 7, 2021


Consumers concerned about the environmental impact of greenhouse gases from Canada’s beef industry aren’t looking at the full picture, a recent webinar at the University of Calgary was told.


“We really need all of the environmental benefits to be part of the conversation,” said Kelly Smith-Fraser, who was the first female chair of Alberta Beef Producers.


Canadians must consider things “such as preservation of our grasslands, biodiversity, upcycling, carbon sequestration, as well as providing wildlife habitats — so we really need to take everything into account, not just one little snippet of one piece.”


She was one of four main speakers at a recent webinar called What’s the Beef About Beef? It was hosted by the Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education at the university’s School of Public Policy in partnership with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.


The event aimed to help consumers answer common questions about beef, which is one of Canada’s biggest agri-food imports, said a statement by the webinar’s organizers. “We will dispel some myths and bring some science and facts to the table and hopefully make your grocery shopping a little easier.”


Beef producers have made substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions since the 1980s by adopting innovations sparked by research, said Smith-Fraser, who is also a board member of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.


Native grasslands used by Canadian producers to raise cattle are also “huge sinks for carbon,” said beef producer Melissa Downing, who is the vice-chair of Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) in Alberta. She estimated such areas sequester up to 81 tonnes of carbon per acre...