Apr 19, 2022 - Energy & Environment

New designation: "Bird-friendly" beef

Illustration of a birds peeking through viewfinder holes in a green landscape

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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."

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.
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