An Assessment of the Environmental Sustainability of the Canadian Beef and Dairy Industries
While the beef and dairy industries are amongst the most important sectors in Canadian agriculture, their environmental impacts and sustainability have been increasingly called into question. Cattle have been found to be the largest livestock contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and contribute substantially to Canada’s livestock water footprint. As these industries move towards consolidation, antibiotic and hormone contamination are becoming increasingly serious environmental concerns. Cattle have both directly and indirectly been linked to decreased air quality, water contamination, and nutrient pollution, biodiversity loss, land use change, and deforestation. Climate change presents unique adaptation challenges to both industries. Acknowledging the complex interactions between livestock production and climate change, this literature review seeks to assess the environmental sustainability of the Canadian beef and dairy industries. Factors assessed include the industries’ contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, water use and contamination, hormone and antibiotic use and contamination, land use, impacts on biodiversity, and climate change adaptability. Results suggest that neither industry is environmentally sustainable under the current production paradigm. However, beef emerges as the far worse alternative, using considerably more resources in every category assessed. The report concludes with recommended mitigation measures to increase the sustainability of cattle-related industries in Canada.