Livestock in Canada

The role of livestock in sustainable food production systems in Canada

Global drivers such as the growing human population, evolving consumer preferences, globalization, and climate change have put pressure on the agri-food sector to produce more livestock products with less land, feed, and water. Taste, nutritional value, cost, convenience, source, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability of food are criteria upon which purchasing decisions are made. In response, an environmental footprint analysis composed of greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient and water use efficiency, water quality, carbon storage, and biodiversity has been completed for many commodities. However, as livestock production systems occur within complex agro-ecosystems, it is extremely challenging to formulate a single overall sustainability metric. There is no “silver bullet” to solve the environmental concerns of all livestock production systems as they operate under different constraints on different landscapes, with different water and nutrient cycles, and soil types. Furthermore, the lack of scientific evidence regarding the interactions between livestock production, human nutritional adequacy, and the health of our environment makes it difficult for consumers to interpret this information and make informed food choices. This review examines these complex interactions and trade-offs, as well as the potential impacts of changes in consumer dietary choice on environmental sustainability, nutritional adequacy, and land use.