Environmental Value of Ontario Beef Production and Agricultural Grasslands

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Source: Beef Farmers of Ontario

Executive Summary

Many consumers want transparent information about where their food comes from and the impacts that food production has on the environment. Beef is typically depicted as having extremely negative environmental impacts, though there is ample science to the contrary. Existing consumer research, as well as media and information broadly available on beef through other channels, shows that consumers are skeptical of the environmental value of beef. It is called “the greatest contributor to climate change”, amongst other things.

Consumer research has also shown us that many consumers are receptive to credible and transparent information on a subject when it is presented in the right way. While there has been work done to evaluate the sustainability, including environmental benefits, of Canadian beef production by groups like the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the data used is often too general, vague or focused on Western Canada to be automatically credible and valuable in Ontario.

Without communicating its environmental value, beef will continue to be perceived by many consumers as environmentally harmful. The beef sector must prove to consumers that they don’t need to “feel guilty” about eating beef.

The aim of this project is to provide the Ontario beef industry with thorough, credible and relevant research and data to support our claims of environmentalism on Ontario beef farms and the ecosystem goods and services provided by beef farmers. With credible data and information in hand, the Ontario beef industry will be better equipped to convincingly communicate the environmental benefits of beef production and debunk myths about the industry’s environmental costs.

In this project, existing research that is relevant to Ontario’s climate, beef production systems, soil types, wildlife, etc. will be identified, reviewed and collected. From this research review, information and data on the environmental footprint, and more specifically the environmental benefits (also can be described as ecosystem goods and services), will be gathered and reported to BFO. With assistance of third-party communications and marketing expertise, the gathered information will then be used to craft marketing materials, resources and other communications for the purposes of marketing Ontario beef, lobbying, policy development, and empowering producers to tell their own stories about how they provide ecosystem goods and services while producing delicious and nutritious food.

Grasslands (including pastures and hay fields) are an important environmental feature in the same way as forests and wetlands. The information gathered and communicated in this project will illustrate the value of grasslands to society, as well as the environmental value of beef production. This project will empower the sector to talk to consumers about what happens in their own backyards on grasslands and beef farms, as well as differentiate Ontario beef to consumers.

Completion date: 2019

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