Calgary

Alberta beef producers say they're ahead of the curve as consumers look for sustainable meat

Calls to consume less meat to protect the environment have some ranchers in Alberta turning their focus to more sustainable meat production.

'What we've done is address their concerns around the environment, animal welfare, sustainability and quality'

Rancher Colleen Biggs says her operation east of Calgary has operated sustainably for generations. (CBC)

Calls to consume less meat to protect the environment have some ranchers in Alberta turning their focus to more sustainable meat production.

It's one of the big topics in Calgary this week at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference.

But it's not really a new idea. Rancher Colleen Biggs says her operation, TK Ranch just east of Calgary, has operated sustainably for generations.

"We use cattle as a tool to graze the grasslands to keep them healthy. In turn, the grasslands act as a carbon sink — they actually sequester 80 tonnes of carbon per hectare, which is 25 per cent more than cropland — and they act as biodiverse ecosystems for many, many endangered and threatened species," she said.

"We have been direct marketing our own grass-finished beef for over 25 years and we interface with consumers on a daily basis and what we've done is really address their concerns around the environment, animal welfare, sustainability and quality."

The Biggs have a small processing plant on site and the animals are treated with dignity until the end, she said.

"And the end result is nutrient dense, grass-finished beef for consumers."

TK Ranch, operated by Dylan and Colleen Biggs east of Calgary, produces humanely raised, grass-finished beef. (CBC)

Biggs believes people need to get information about how their meat is produced from real ranchers, to dispel unfair myths about the industry.

Fawn Jackson with the Canadian Cattleman's Association spoke at the beef industry conference, saying many ranchers have been operating sustainably — and it shows.

"Canada has a greenhouse-gas footprint of our beef production that is 50 per cent of the world average. We certainly use and protect and conserve grasslands​​​​​," she said.

Biggs believes the real issue is that people are disconnected.

"It's important to really engage with their food, and not in the grocery store, because that's the only place people now get a chance to even have anything to do with food."

She says people should meet with ranchers rather than relying on the internet to learn about how their meat is produced.

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