New designation: "Bird-friendly" beef
The National Audubon Society is introducing a new certification program: Cattle ranchers who can show that their ecological practices will restore bird populations will earn the designation "bird-friendly beef" for their products.
- Three billion North American birds have perished since the 1970s, and global warming may push many more to the brink of extinction, per Audubon.
- Audubon created a "bird-friendliness index" to evaluate conservation success in grasslands, where bird populations are particularly hard-hit.
Why it matters: Instead of making war on ranchers and encouraging people to boycott red meat, Audubon is launching its "Conservation Ranching Initiative," which it calls a "market-based conservation approach [that] offers incentives for good grassland stewardship through a certification label on beef products."
- For the first time, Audubon says, consumers "can contribute to grassland conservation efforts by selectively purchasing beef from Audubon-certified farms and ranches."
What they're saying: "It’s a quietly radical move," according to The Counter, a food industry news site. "Historically, U.S. wildlife conservation efforts have focused on preserving habitat."
- "But Audubon’s new strategy is specifically geared toward improving the environmental value of working lands, implying that 'nature' and 'agriculture' are not mutually exclusive entities."
The bottom line: Bird populations decline when pesticides are applied to fields, and tend to return once landscapes are "re-wilded."
- "In exchange for going through the ropes, ranchers with lands certified by Audubon receive the organization’s 'raised on bird-friendly land' seal to leverage sales of their beef for environmentally conscious consumers," The Counter says.