Beef Production 101

Beef cattle are ruminant (four-stomached) animals capable of digesting fibrous material that cannot be used by people and converting it into wholesome, high-protein food suitable for human consumption. Canada’s 13 million cattle spend most of their lives grazing on land unsuitable for crop production, or on land that is part of an integrated and sustainable cropping system. In the winter, cows are kept on rangeland, in woodlots or in loose housing. During this season they are provided with hay and other forages which have been cut and stored.

Canada has one of the healthiest national cattle herds and one of the most wholesome beef products in the world. The production of high quality beef begins the way it has for more than a century in Canada – with the raising of calves alongside mother cows on pastures and grasslands. There is no better method for getting beef cattle off to a good start than fresh air, clean water and the individual attention a mother cow provides her calf. 

Beef cattle farmers and ranchers also watch over the cows and their calves. Indeed the success of the Canadian cattle industry relies on healthy, well cared for cattle. Canada has 60,000 beef farms and feedlots, with the industry contributing $33 billion annually to the Canadian economy.

Genetics play an important role too. Canada’s entire beef cattle herd are based upon Bos taurus (beef breeds including Hereford, Angus, Charolais, Simmental, Limousin) animals. There are no Bos indicus (draft breeds Brahman, Zebu) animals in Canada’s beef herd. The U.S. and Australia however use Bos indicus cattle for beef production in arid regions. Research completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture research (Wheeler et al, Journal of Animal Science, 1994, 72:3145-3151) indicates that “meat produced from Bos indicus cattle was less tender than meat from Bos taurus cattle, regardless of marbling score.” This analysis suggests that Canadian beef (Bos taurus) is more tender than beef from either the U.S. or Australia.

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