Limited profitability and growth for the red meat industry are forecast due to labour shortages

December 20, 2016

Ottawa, ON – The impact of labour shortages on the beef and pork industries have become increasingly critical in recent years. New research indicates that the trend will worsen between now and 2025, resulting in a widening labour gap that threatens to limit the profitability and growth of Canada’s red-meat industry.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has completed a three-year study of the Canadian red-meat industry and released Labour Market Forecast to 2025 studies for the beef and pork industries – an examination of the workplace trends and realities that will shape these industries between now and 2025. The red-meat industry includes finished cattle and swine, as well as feedlots.

The study is part of the Labour Market Information (LMI) initiative, which examined the labour market in Canada’s agriculture sector across 11 commodity areas.

The study revealed that in 2014, the beef industry workforce consists of 40,900 people and was unable to fill 3,500 jobs due to a lack of domestic workers. The pork industry, which employed 14,000 people that year, was unable to fill 800 jobs. By 2025, these industries are expected to see the labour gap widen significantly, with as many as 15,500 more jobs than the domestic workforce can fill.

Renewed global markets and a growing demand for animal protein in emerging markets are driving a higher demand for Canadian beef and pork. At the same time, Canada faces a shrinking pool of domestic agricultural workers. As a result, by 2025, more than one in four of jobs in the beef industry and nearly one in five jobs in the pork industry are expected to be at risk if additional sources of labour can’t be found.

The widening labour gap will have a significant economic impact. In 2014, labour shortages in the beef and pork industries resulted in an estimated $311 million in lost sales. In addition to financial losses, a national survey of beef and pork producers indicated a range of other issues: 23 per cent of beef producers and 38 per cent of pork producers reported production losses due to an insufficient workforce, and 21 per cent of beef producers and 17 per cent of pork producers reported delaying expansion plans due to insufficient workforce.

The most significant factor in the growing labour shortage is the retirement of these industries’ older-than-average workforces. Over the next 10 years, nearly one in three Canadian beef workers and one in four Canadian pork workers are expected to retire.

While the beef and pork industries offer a work environment with low seasonality, little variability in hours, and less physically demanding work than many other agricultural commodities, these benefits are not expected to be enough to attract enough new workers. In particular, a shrinking number of young people entering the workforce and a lack of awareness among young people about the career opportunities available in agriculture will create challenges for agricultural employers in the coming years. 

To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC, with the help of the Government of Canada, has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC also offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit

The Beef and Pork Labour Market Forecasts to 2025 reports can be downloaded at The study data was validated through Canada-wide industry consultations including: 1034 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders; 80 phone interviews; six focus groups for a total of more than 100 participants; and seven webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 100 participants in total.

The LMI research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.


For more information

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) is a national, non-profit organization focused on addressing human resource issues facing agricultural businesses across Canada. Industry participation is the cornerstone of CAHRC, working with agriculture industry leaders, governments and educational stakeholders to research develop and communicate solutions to the challenges in employment and skills development in the agriculture industry. CAHRC leads collaborative implementation efforts in support of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan for the sector. For more information visit

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst
Executive Director, CAHRC
T: 613-745-7457 ext. 222

Debra Hauer
LMI Project Manager, CAHRC
T : 613-745-7457 ext. 227
E :

Theresa Whalen
Communications & Marketing Specialist, CAHRC 
T: 613-745-7457 ext. 223
C: 613-325-7321