As the Earth’s population increases and middle income classes rise in several developing regions, so does the demand for high quality protein. In 2015, 1.22 million tonnes (carcass weight) of Canadian beef was produced for the world. That number rose to approximately 1.3 million tonnes in 2016, and is forecast to grow.
With ongoing research and adoption of new technologies, Canadian beef producers can sustainably increase production and help meet the global demand.
A recent study found that producing one kilogram of Canadian beef in 2011 required 29% fewer breeding stock, 27% fewer slaughter cattle and 24% less land than it did in 1981. Producing the same amount of beef in 2011 also created 15% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than 30 years prior.
These reductions are largely because of technologies that improve production efficiencies. On the cow-calf side, optimizing nutrition improves growth and reproductive performance. When more females get pregnant and successfully wean a calf, fewer heifers need to be retained as replacements, so the breeding herd is smaller. On the feedlot side, heifer carcass weight has increased due to growth promotants that overcome the biological disadvantages that heifers have relative to steers. Improvements in feed crop yields mean that a smaller land area is needed to produce the same amount of feed. New vaccine development and better understanding of production practices that limit disease have also helped to increase efficiencies. Many of the same things that improve productivity on the farm, ranch or feedlot also contribute to a smaller environmental hoofprint for the beef industry.
Through research and innovation, the Canadian beef industry can continue to advance and take the opportunity to serve the global demand for quality beef.
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