The federal government unveils a new climate policy incentivizing farmers to reduce how much their cows burp.
Revealed at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, the Reducing Enteric Methane Emissions from Beef Cattle protocol will encourage beef cattle farms to reduce methane emissions by improving animal diets to make the cows less gassy.
In 2021, agriculture was responsible for 31% of Canada’s total methane emissions, mostly from enteric fermentation produced by beef and dairy cattle, the federal government says. Methane is released into the air when cows burp.
If successful in reducing their cow burps, farmers will have an opportunity to generate credits that they can sell to other companies who need to reduce emissions but haven’t yet accomplished doing so.
“It’s the latest in a series of climate change announcements made by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault at the global climate conference, and just like the others, it will cost you,” wrote Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun.
The protocol necessitates costly changes in cattle diets and management, an expense that will inevitably be passed down to beef consumers, Lilley argued.
Several methods exist to reduce methane emissions through dietary changes in cattle, yet each comes with an added cost.
For instance, substituting hay with corn silage in cattle’s diets diminishes methane emissions. Similarly, incorporating specific varieties of seaweed or chemical additives into their feed can yield the same effect.
However, it’s important to note that all these alternatives bear a higher cost than conventional feeding practices. The cost increase will affect farmers and consumers.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith labelled the new initiative “completely ridiculous.”
“How is going after ranchers and dairy farmers a priority of this federal government?” asked Smith in a post to X (formerly Twitter).
Lilley brought up an irony that this change would counter the trend in the beef industry over the last several years that has seen consumers pay more for grass-fed beef, which is lower in saturated fats, has more Omega 3 fatty acids, and higher levels of other nutrients.
“Now, the government wants us to eat less of that kind of beef for the health of the planet,” he said.
Canadians are already struggling with costs at the grocery stores, with many turning to dollar stores instead, as previously reported by True North. The impending increase in beef prices, resulting from the new climate policy, is poised to disproportionately impact those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
“The Trudeau government is out of touch with average Canadians and can’t see the impact their policies are having on day-to-day life. Increasing the cost of food in the name of saving the planet may sound good to academics building climate models but, politically, it will have a disastrous impact on Trudeau’s government,” wrote Lilley. According to the federal government’s press release, the final protocol is expected to be released in the summer of 2024. By this time, farmers will be able to register for Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System.