Projects Inventory


Innovative Measurement Tool and Extension Pilot for Sustainable Beef Production in Alberta

Richard Smith

Alberta Beef Producers

November 2018 - November 2020

Audience(s): Cow-Calf Feedlot Packer/Processor   Project Type(s): Pilot

Alberta’s beef sector has developed significant expertise in sustainable beef production, but a key barrier remains to mobilizing the full potential of the sector in this area: private sector investment in sustainable beef facilitated by a science-based, globally applicable, user-friendly tool to measure sustainability improvements. The Cool Farm Tool (CFT) is used worldwide by both farmers and multinational brands and retailers to assess and quantify on-farm and supply-chain sustainability, and to focus investments to meet targets and enhance Corporate Social Responsibility. However, the recently released beef module is not well-suited to Canadian beef production. Since the CFT is gaining traction with agri-businesses globally, it is critical that the Canadian beef industry is not left behind, or assessed unfairly, due to differences in production. The goal of the project is to adapt the CFT, considering the management practices and efficiencies of Canadian beef production systems. The adapted tool will be tested with Alberta beef producers, including modelling several beneficial management practices (BMPs) to determine potential sustainability and economic impacts. Beef clubs will be set up across Alberta for producers, industry, and NGOs to share information on sustainable beef production using the CFT as a basis for discussion.


Goal #2: Reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of Canadian beef per unit of product produced

Goal #9:Increase the financial viability of beef production in Canada

Indicators Addressed:
  • Practices that support carbon sequestration and minimize emissions are understood and/or employed
    • The main indicator that will be measured in this project is greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint of beef production. The adapted CFT will utilize IPCC tier 1 and 2 methodologies and will incorporate the best available science from the Canadian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report to provide metrics for GHG emissions and sequestration per liveweight of beef produced. Benchmarking and scenario analyses alongside producer training and extension via beef clubs will enable greater understanding of emissions sources, co-benefits of reducing emissions, and the BMPs that can minimize emissions.
  • Energy resources are responsibly used/Innovation and technology are utilized to improve responsible production
    • The CFT provides metrics on the carbon footprint of on-farm energy use for beef production. Energy use and efficiency metrics will be measured alongside carbon footprints when performing benchmarking and scenario analyses.
  • Continuous learning regarding beef production is pursued 
    • Extension of the CFT project will be made through the initial sample of producers involved in testing the tool including 1:1 instruction on how to use the CFT, and more broadly through the formation of beef clubs that are expected to continue after the project has been completed. This will involve meetings between producers, industry and NGOs to continue learning and sharing sustainable beef production practices.
  • Riparian areas, wetlands, surface and ground water sources and nutrient runoff are responsibly managed to help maintain or enhance watershed health
    • The CFT includes water metrics for irrigation requirements and blue and green water footprints for the on-farm production of feed crops. Water metrics are not the main focus of the project but will be taken into consideration while performing benchmarking and scenario analyses of BMPs.
Communication Tools:

Once the CFT is adapted and finalized for use by Canadian beef producers, the focus of the project will shift to extension primarily through the setup of beef clubs.

The beef clubs will be based on similar projects run by McDonalds in the UK/Ireland and by Ducks Unlimited. Clubs will be located across Alberta and led by a local beef producer with logistics and financial support from the project partners. Meetings will be held 1-2 times per year and will focus on addressing sustainability topics of interest with speakers from agriculture, industry, non-profit sector and academia. Meetings will also involve training on how to use the CFT to model and test BMPs and measure on farm sustainability and economic improvements.

Project results and extension will also be promoted by the project partners (Alberta Beef Producers, McDonalds, Ducks Unlimited Canada) through existing communication streams, and more broadly through a North American Cool Farm Alliance Working Group which will launch in June 2019.

Tagged as: Economic