Northern Ontario has affordable land and ample water, and is well-suited to beef farming. The lower cost of entry in the north will allow beginning and existing farmers to establish operations of efficient and viable scale.
Grasslands that are managed by Ontario beef farmers do more than produce beef.
They support ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, biodiversity conservation, carbon storage, moderating of nutrient run-off, and preservation of wetlands that otherwise may be subject to cultivation.
About 30% of Canada’s agricultural land is too hilly, rocky, cold or wet to grow crops, but it can support grazing livestock. Animals convert grasses and otherwise indigestible plant matter into nutrient and protein-rich food, while returning organic matter (manure) to the soil.
Canada’s beef sector utilizes managed grazing systems and makes efficient use of inputs, such as feed, to have one of the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints for beef in the world. According to the 2015 research project out of the Beef Cattle Research Council, “Defining the Environmental Footprint of Canadian Beef Production,” the GHG intensity per kilogram of beef produced in Canada has decreased by 15% from 1981-2011. There have been other improvements in those same 30 years, with 24% less land and 27% fewer cattle required to produce an equivalent amount of beef.
Ontario’s beef farmers are motivated to be more efficient. They work to reduce their use of expensive resources like land, feed, energy and water, and to reduce GHGs and nutrient losses. Improved production efficiencies have economic, social and environmental benefits. The world population is projected to grow to 9.1 billion by 2050. Farmers know they’re going to have to keep working hard to feed our growing population, and that they’ll have to use every tool in their toolbox – and likely some that haven’t even been invented yet – to make sure there is enough food for everyone. Climate change is going to compromise food security globally, but Ontario can look to its own land for a source of healthy and sustainably produced food, instead of relying on imported food that is transported far distances to reach our plates.
According to the World Wildlife Federation’s website, “Keeping ranchers in business leaves grasslands intact, creates habitat for a broad diversity of birds and other grassland species, moderates run-off and secures carbon in the soil.”