Beef cuts on display at a grocery store in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Weather Network’s anti-meat video ‘doesn’t reflect true story’: cattle ranchers

At issue is the video’s suggestion that cutting back on meat consumption could help save the planet

A meat industry association has demanded the Weather Network remove a video from its website that urges Canadians to consume less red meat, the latest front in the farmers’ fight against negative publicity for animal products amid a consumer push toward plant-based protein alternatives.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association met with the network’s executives Monday night to address concerns about the video’s message, primarily claims that cows require more resources than other, smaller animals and produce 20 times more greenhouse gas than certain plants.

The Weather Network-produced video, which suggests people should cut back by about 1.5 burgers a week, highlights a recent report from the World Resources Institute, the United Nations and other partners on how the world can prepare to feed a 10-billion population by 2050.

The video “doesn’t reflect the true story,” Jill Harvie, public and stakeholder engagement manager with cattlemen’s association, said in an interview.

The group disputes the video’s suggestion that cutting back on meat consumption could help save the planet, saying beef production in Canada makes a positive contribution to the environment through maintaining grassland and sequestering carbon.

The Canadian beef industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are among the lowest in the world, she added.

“We’d hoped that the video would come down and would be essentially replaced with something that was more reflective of the Canadian context.”

Estimates that suggest beef production is only a small contributor to emissions tend to leave out the impact of cutting down forests and other land use, according to the WRI website. It does note that the emission intensity of Canada’s beef production is lower than in much of South America, Africa and Asia, according to 2013 figures.

The two parties agreed to engage in sharing information, said Harvie, adding the network appeared open to future collaboration.

The Weather Network, which is owned by Pelmorex Corp., declined an interview request and did not answer questions over email, but sent a prepared statement that said it “will not actively advise people on their food consumption choices.”

It also appeared to acknowledge the video may have missed the mark.

“The purpose of this article was merely to focus on sustainability and upon further review, we determined that our video and post did not reflect our intention,” the network’s statement read.

The video’s narrative plays into an ongoing push by policy-makers and plant protein producers to sell consumers on the environmental and health benefits of swapping steaks for soybeans.

Cattle producers earlier this year took on plant-based protein giant and stock-market darling Beyond Meat, which makes the popular Beyond Meat burgers that have been added to restaurant menus across Canada in recent months.

READ MORE: Beyond Meat goes public as sales of plant-based meats rise

The Quebec Cattle Producers Federation filed a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency saying the California-based company’s advertising is misleading and contravenes Canadian rules, arguing it shouldn’t be allowed to use the word “meat” for its vegan products.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

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