Innovative thinking has brought together two seemingly very different partners that share a common goal to flock together to ensure that grasslands and prairies of U.S. land remain lush, as intended by nature. Through an effort coined "Conservation Ranching," the National Audubon Society is looking to cattle ranchers to help cultivate bird-friendly environments by practicing good grassland stewardship and working together to further implement best practices for bird-friendly land. As Jack Gridley, DLM VP of Meat & Seafood explains, "healthy grasslands provide a natural habitat for wild bird populations, and this, of course, also means that a healthy diet is present for grazing livestock. It's a healthy ecosystem, which is a win-win."
The National Audubon Society has found a supporter in these efforts with Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Meats, representing 34 ranches and about one million acres of U.S.D.A. Certified Organic grasslands spanning the western and midwestern United States. We first started carrying Panorama Organic's grass-fed and grass-finished beef in 2019 as a year-round option in addition to our wonderful local DLM Grass-Fed Beef.
The Birds & The Cows
The National Audubon Society's Conservation Ranching initiative was developed because a majority of grasslands are on privately owned lands, and the program layers in incentives for steps taken toward protecting these grassland habitats. With certain grassland birds species on the decline, bridging together audubon experts with the stewards of the land—ranchers—is incredibly beneficial.
Participating ranchers then work directly with officials from the National Audubon Society to develop a Habitat Management Plan, which outlines goals and opportunities to improve upon that support grassland bird species. To qualify, ranches must allow the herd to freely graze, prohibit feedlots, and livestock must be antibiotic free and fed no animal byproducts. In addition, participants must reflect best practices for animal health and welfare. For Panorama, these were practices already in place.
Conscious agriculture has been a focus at Panorama over the years, and that includes both ensuring the livelihood of independent ranching families for years to come and the very grassland that nurtures the livestock. So raising cattle in away that also benefits the habitat of surrounding wildlife was a natural concept to embrace.
"With all of our Panorama ranchers enrolling in Audubon's program in 2021, nearly one million acres have been added to Audubon's Conservation Ranching Initiative" says Kay Cornelius, Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Beef general manager. "This is not only good for the herd, but good for the bird. This action doubles Audubon's land conserved for birds just in one year—that is amazing."
Kay explains that by taking steps to further protect the land, the grasslands and migratory birds alike will both thrive and flourish... and, this also contributes to a great-tasting grass-fed beef.
"Bird populations are a great indicator of ecosystem health. ... When Panorama ranchers help keep bird populations healthy, we know the grasslands are functioning at their highest ability and that helps not only our ranchers, but all of us," Kay says. With many of the Panorama ranches being multi-generational families, these efforts ensure an intact ecosystem to pass down for generations to come.
- Sandy Martin