A series of three meetings were jointly held last week led by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The purpose of the meetings was to discuss grazing livestock and their role in building a sustainable food supply system.

The meetings and consultations were held in preparation for the United Nations Food System Summit this coming fall, which hasn’t been held for 25 years.

Lauren Martin, manager of government and food industry relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, notes that the summit was conveniently announced before the pandemic, when massive disruptions to the food systems occurred and will need to be discussed and addressed.

As for beef’s role in the upcoming meeting and subsequent global policies and initiatives, Martin is aware of the call to reduce red meat consumption, particularly in developed countries, which CCA is concerned about.

Martin thinks that as a multi-national organization, Canada could use the take-it-or-leave-it approach to UN policy, but also sees that what comes out of the summit could be a harbinger of policy to come. “The Canadian government at this point in time is cozy with the UN, it likes the UN, so it might resonate very much with UN messages,” she says.

Listen to the full conversation between Martin and RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney, story continues below:

The beef industry has a history of collaboration with conservation and a lot of strategy went into the messaging for the meetings last week — including the fact that grazing livestock play a positive and vital role in conserving grassland ecosystems.

One issue with reducing red meat consumption based on a nutritional and environmental premise, from Martin and the CCA’s point of view, is that it’s too black and white — it’s not nuanced enough to make a global recommendation. Demand for beef, domestically on this continent or others, is high.

“It’s not necessarily just about saying ‘beef is great, only eat beef,’ there’s room on the plate for everybody,” says Martin. “If you’re going to ignore the hearts and minds of consumers, then you’re really going to ignore an entire chapter of the food system.”

Livestock are a part of an optimal grazing system, which in turn, becomes part of a functional ecosystem. When consumers go to the grocery store to purchase their meat, they want to know what a “good purchase” is versus a “bad purchase” but in reality, it’s not so simple, says Martin.

Canada has a really good story to tell, too —  our GHG emissions from beef production is much less than the global average — and Martin says the CCA would like Canada to tell these types of stories at the UN Food Systems Summit.

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