Buy Pastured Beef to Help Grasslands and Birds



For most of the 20th century, one could easily find evidence of cattle ranchers harming prairie grasslands and the wildlife that depend on this ecosystem. Overgrazing, drought, chemicals, and loss of habitat have decimated birds that call Western grasslands their home. Damage to the prairies and pastures in my former home state of Colorado was evident from corner-to-corner and seemed to have no end.

But then, Audubon Society came to the rescue in 2017 with the Audubon Certified Beef Program, or ACB. Audubon recognized that to effect lasting positive change in the grasslands of the West, private landowners/cattle ranchers would need to be partners in the restoration. The trick was convincing cattle ranchers that by making significant changes in their practices to benefit birds, would also help cattle ranchers in the long run.

Newly enlisted ACB ranchers work with Audubon to keep cattle moving so grasslands flourish instead of suffer under the hooves of cows. Free technical assistance is provided to ranchers to manage cows in a way that mimics former buffalo herds — aka American Bison. Proper cattle ranching provides aeration of the soil from cow hooves, fertilization from cow pies, and stimulation of plant growth by the way herds feed on the move as buffalo did for thousands of years.

Cleaner Beef

Ranchers who sign up for the Audubon Certified Ranch Program meet Habitat Management protocols that are tailored for each region. Other regulations in the program include animal health and welfare and environmental guidelines. Feedlots—the stinky scourge of the West — aren’t allowed, and consumers get a cleaner beef product because hormones and antibiotics are prohibited. Curtailing herbicides and pesticides are another benefit to the environment in the ACB program.

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