Alberta beef producers meet with Weather Network over tweet that infuriated meat eaters

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Members of Canada's cattle industry had a discussion with senior staff at The Weather Network on Monday about a controversial tweet about eating less meat. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports. EDITORS NOTE: The original version of this story contained incorrect information, and has been removed – Jul 22, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the amount that cattle contribute to GHG emissions.

It was a post that hit a nerve with a lot of meat eaters.

On July 19, The Weather Network posted a video claiming that cutting down on eating beef could help save the planet. The information in the video came from a recent study from the World Resources Institute that claims eating meat at the rate we do now will not be sustainable when the world’s population reaches 10 billion by 2050.

READ MORE: More than half of Canadians want to eat less meat, survey finds

“Our producers are very proud of what they do and they were offended by it,” said Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, from his office in Calgary on Monday.

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He pointed out that at least a third of agricultural land in Canada can’t grow crops, which he said makes it ideal for cattle.

“There is an inference in there if we take cattle off those lands, we will just convert it into cropland. These are lands that are not suitable for cropland. In fact, if we did, it would actually lead to their soil degradation,” Laycraft said.

READ MORE: Beyond Meat launching in Canadian stores amid race to build a better veggie burger

As a result of the video, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association had what it called a “friendly discussion” Monday with the head of The Weather Network.

“It was a good first discussion. We talked about many of the positive benefits of the work that is being done,” Laycraft said.

In a statement to Global News, The Weather Network said: “We will not actively advise people on their food consumption choices. The purpose of the article was to focus on sustainability and upon further review, we determined the post did not reflect our intention.”

READ MORE: Burger wars: Is a plant-based patty always better for you than beef?

A Canadian food production expert said it would have been more appropriate for The Weather Network to have looked at all of the evidence surrounding cattle production, not just some of it.

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“The information was not really complete,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor.

“You have to also look at the whole issue of grass-fed beef, which is sustainable. Since 2016, there has been some effort from the cattle industry to redefine the product itself to make it more sustainable as well.”

According to the United Nations, food and agriculture association global livestock production contributes 14.5 per cent of anthropogenic GHG emissions and beef and cattle milk contribute 41 percent and 20 per cent respectively.

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