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Social Responsibility

Social parameters are a key component of a product’s sustainability. The social assessment evaluates the socioeconomic performance of the Canadian beef life cycle by reviewing the social performance of organizations across the value chain to establish socioeconomic impacts with respect to main stakeholders and to various social issues.

The processes and practices associated with producing beef were evaluated – highlighting areas that are doing well and identifying areas for further improvement with respect to four priority social issues: Labour Management, People’s Health and Safety, Animal Care, and Antimicrobial Use.

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Labour management refers to the working conditions of individuals working throughout the supply chain and how these conditions contribute to human health, sustainable workplaces and communities.
  • The labour gap in the Canadian beef industry grew by 4,196 workers between 2017 and 2022 and is forecast to increase to 13,998 by 2029.
  • Industry stakeholders display a clear recognition in the value of hired labour and the need for continuous improvement in socially responsible recruitment and retention practices, such as benefits and wages, and professional development opportunities.
Results suggest that challenges around labour availability, recruitment and retention are increasing workload levels with potential negative repercussions on people working in the industry. Policies and programs to support affected stakeholders to mitigate these challenges would alleviate the risks.
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Health and safety at work concerns the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being, and capabilities of all individuals involved in business operations, including employees but also producers and the people living on the farm.

  • Workload is ranked among the top 5 stressors for beef farmers.

About half of participants working on-farm indicated a large amount of stress leading to impacts on health such as sleep loss, changes in appetite, and body/headaches.
Three-quarters of those surveyed reported experiencing levels of disturbing stress affecting mental and physical health.

  • Positive conversations around stress and mental health have increased, building awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health challenges.
  • Taking an adaptive management approach to training and equipment use could significantly improve self-reported hazard awareness and safety.
  • The average annual agricultural fatality rate has decreased by 1.4% each year since 1990.
Awareness and preparation of on-farm health and safety is increasing. A focus on training and access to proper safety equipment would be beneficial.
 

 
1 Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR): Agriculture-related fatalities in Canada 1990-2020
 
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Animal care refers to animal health and welfare through activities that humans undertake as part of the beef supply chain. 

It is about providing for the physical and mental well-being of animals (The Five Freedoms), and meeting or exceeding consumer expectations.

The foundation for animal care is guided by the Five Freedoms which must be upheld. These five freedoms include: freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury and disease, fear and distress, and freedom to express normal behavior.

Further outlining the care and handling of beef cattle, a Code of Practice was developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council in conjunction with welfare researchers, veterinarians, animal welfare groups and other stakeholders. The code highlights requirements and recommendations to ensure the health and welfare of beef cattle, while providing avenues for further improvement.

  • 97% of beef farmers surveyed supported animal welfare through training their handlers on low-stress animal handling, with 69% doing so through generational and/or spoken knowledge transfer.
  • 88% of beef farmers surveyed have taken measures over the last three-years to support cattle through extreme weather events.
  • 81% of respondents declared having a Veterinarian/Client/Patient Relationship (VCPR).

Animal care is a success story in Canada. 

Increased practice adoption, coordination and communication across businesses, sectors, and industries may be needed to ensure animal care throughout the cattle’s life cycle.

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Antimicrobials, which include antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and antiparasitics, are instrumental for ensuring animal health in livestock agriculture. Proper use is critical for mitigating adverse effects, and ensuring the health of animals, people and the environment.
  • 79% of respondents using antimicrobials declared that veterinary and/or label instructions on how to administer the product are systematically followed.
  • Protecting the health of animals through optimal nutritional, health, weaning management, marketing, and biosecurity practices is key to antimicrobial stewardship.
Although 95% of beef farmers and ranchers report using antimicrobials to help manage the health of their animals, 88% of them need to treat <5% of calves before being weaned from their mothers, and 91% treat <5% of their mother cows.1 The variety of opinions and perceptions with respect to antimicrobial use (AMU) vary within in the industry. Room for improvement also exists with respect to the adoption of management practices associated with responsible AMU, including further reduction of stressors and increased access to veterinarians in some regions.
  1. Fossen et al. – Antimicrobial Use in Canadian Cow-calf Herd. Canadian Veterinary Journal