On April 6, 2021 the National Audubon Society announced the largest market-based regenerative grasslands partnership in the U.S. with Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Meats®. Panorama is the nation’s largest producer of 100 percent grass-fed, grass-finished certified organic beef.
The commitment will help restore the health of one million acres of certified organic U.S. grasslands, and will create individual habitat management plans with every family rancher in the Panorama Organic network through Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative.
“With 95 percent of grassland birds living on cattle ranches in the United States, and the bird population in steep decline, the connection between cows, birds and land conservation is a priority for Panorama Organic and the National Audubon Society,” said Kay Cornelius, general manager of Panorama Organic. In addition, Cornelius announced that Panorama Organic will further this commitment by doubling the rancher network, with a goal of two million total acres to be certified by 2030.
The initiative empowers consumers to support programs that restore bird populations via conservation practices by selectively purchasing beef nationwide from Audubon-certified farms and ranches, including Panorama Organic and other participating brands. The Audubon certification seal carries broad market appeal among consumers who care about the environment.
“Over the last 50 years, no ecosystem has been more imperiled than the grasslands, including pastures and rangelands that birds like the Grasshopper Sparrow and Western Meadowlark rely,” said Marshall Johnson, director of Conservation Ranching for Audubon. “When birds go silent, that’s an indication that we’re losing our soil health and wildlife habitat. We recognized early on that partnership between Audubon and ranchers was mission critical to saving them.”
The Audubon Conservation Ranching Initiative seeks to enhance the stewardship of grasslands for the benefit of birds. Birds have suffered significant decline over the past 50 years due to the loss of U.S. grasslands to widespread development.
“Not everyone can afford a Tesla to reduce their auto emissions, and solar panels on a roof might be out of reach,” said Cornelius. “But for the 48 million bird and conservation enthusiasts in the U.S., buying Panorama Organic with the Audubon seal allows them to use their purchasing power to vote their conscience and support ranchers committed to not only supplying quality products, but to regenerating habitat for wildlife and restoring ecosystems as well.”
For the past 20 years, conservation has been a cornerstone of Panorama Organic’s philosophy. In addition to the USDA Organic and Global Animal Partnership Step 4 animal welfare standards by which Panorama ranchers operate, each ranch will follow Audubon’s environmental certification, which is audited by a third party, and develop a personalized habitat management plan with the help of Audubon rangeland ecologists.
“Each ranch in our network hosts the most important plants and animals in their states,” said founding Panorama Organic rancher, Darrell Wood of Leavitt Lake Ranches of Vina, California. “I am confident that with this Audubon certification program, our ranchers will be able to further embrace regenerative agriculture to improve the environment for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.”
That plan includes protocols to enhance soil quality; increase species diversity in terms of the plant life that benefits pollinators, like bees and butterflies; and to preserve and enhance habitat for grassland birds and other wildlife.
“Birds are great indicators of overall environmental health,” concluded Johnson. “If there aren’t native grasses and cows propagating it, then we’ll continue to see the dramatic decline of birds across America. We have a very simple saying at Audubon, ‘no cows, no grass, no birds.’”
Panorama Organic’s 34 independent family ranchers span eight states and nearly one million acres of USDA Certified Organic grasslands in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Wisconsin.
Photo of Dickcissel is by Gene Petersen/Audubon Photography Awards.