Cattle producers are long-time partners with the environment and manage their land to ensure sustainable and viable operations for the long-term. Producers use management practices that protect the health of the animal and the environment by protecting water sources and working towards the maintenance of a sustainable agro-ecosystem. Modern production practices produce more beef from fewer animals which maximizes resources like land and water while providing essential nutrients for the human diet.
Beef cattle are often raised on land that is unsuitable for producing grain or vegetable crops and eat grasses that people can’t digest. This land could be cultivated to try and grow food crops but this process would destroy natural habitat and wildlife. Grazing cattle on this land more than doubles the land area that can be used to produce food in Canada. Cattle production is an effective and efficient way to provide a nutrient-dense protein by converting non-human quality forage/crop products into meat products.
The same rangelands and pasture cattle graze on play a huge role in maintaining plant biodiversity, wildlife habitats, watersheds, and reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gases (GHG).
Pasture lands are the preferred habitat for many species of Canadian wildlife, including some species that have been identified as being at risk. Burrowing owls, swift fox, greater prairie chicken, sage grouse, black-tailed prairie dogs, and loggerhead shrikes are all species at risk that prefer unbroken pastures as their habitat. The swift fox is one species that could be delisted soon as habitat preserved by livestock grazing enables its population to rebound.
In 2012, the benefits of well-managed grazing were acknowledged in the State of Canada’s Birds report. The national report examined the human influence on Canada’s bird populations since the 1970s, and the negatives and positives driving the trend. The report recognized cattle grazing as a positive practice that can help to preserve habitat for birds. The report said the inclusion of bison, beef and other range-fed meat in the human diet encourages the retention of pasture land.
Modern production practices maintain and improve environmental integrity of grassland ecosystems to sustain working landscapes, conserve biodiversity and promote vibrant rural communities.