Measuring Beef Sustainability

The National Beef Sustainability Assessment (NBSA) measures the environmental, social and economic sustainability performance of the entire Canadian beef system from birth through farm-gate to the plate, based on sound science. A sustainability strategy accompanies the assessment to identify key priority areas for improvement.

As a collaborative group with a vision for continual improvement, learn more about the sustainability journey of the Canadian beef industry, and the progress that has been made by the over the past seven years since our first baseline assessment (2016).


I am proud of the Canadian beef industry’s commitment to continuous improvement, and the progress already made on our sustainability journey. This assessment demonstrates the important role Canadian beef producers and our members play in advancing sustainability, and what we can accomplish when we work together towards common goals.

Ryan Beierbach – Chair, Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

All three pillars must work as one for true sustainability.

On the Environment...

Canada is among the most environmentally sustainable beef production systems in the world, with a greenhouse gas intensity less than half of the global average.

And we stay the course – striving for improvement.

Producing 1 kg of beef (boneless and consumed) now creates 15% less greenhouse gases than in 2014.

The current assessment provides an update to environmental indicators including carbon footprint, resource use (water, land and fuel) and potential water and air pollution (freshwater eutrophication, terrestrial acidification, and photochemical oxidant formation potentials.)

Assessing the beneficial ecosystem services and their interaction with land used for Canadian beef cattle production is also an important part of the environmental story including the assessment of biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

Land used for beef production in Canada stores an estimated 1.9 billion tonnes of soil organic carbon – that’s equivalent for the annual emissions of 58 passenger vehicles per Canadian!

On Social Responsibility...

Social factors are equally important to a product’s sustainability.

The social assessment reviewed the processes and practices associated with producing beef – to demonstrate areas that are doing well and identify those which could be improved.

Keystone practices included those that mitigate occupational stress, support worker recruitment and retention, safe animal handling and public trust.

  • Four priority social areas were identified with positive contributions and areas for improvement:
  • • People’s health, safety, physical and mental well-being
  • • Labour management supporting availability, recruitment and retention of workers
  • • Animal health and welfare
  • • Responsible antimicrobial use

On Economics...

The Canadian beef industry is an important contributor to the Canadian economy.

Economics is the triple bottom line that underpins sustainability across the entire supply chain – for farmers, ranchers, processors and packers, retailers and restaurants, and all those involved in producing Canadian beef.

The assessment evaluated producer viability including cost of production and productivity, consumer resilience and demand.

The Canadian beef industry contributes $51.6 billion in the production of goods and services, $21.8 billion to the GDP and $11.7 billion in labour income.

Funding for this project has been provided through the AgriAssurance Program under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.