By Ian Cook, Grassland Conservation Manager, Birds Canada
The Prairies, with their rich biodiversity, are one of the most important ecosystems for birds in North America. This article is the final installment in a three-part series exploring the connections between the Canadian Prairies, prairie producers, and birds.
Along with being important to a huge diversity of birds, the Prairies are an agricultural working landscape that produces a tremendous amount of food for Canadians and people all over the world. In the second installment of this series we discussed the integral role Canadian livestock producers play in the conservation of the grasslands and prairie birds. On the Canadian Prairies, grazing livestock like beef cows can provide the habitat conditions that grassland birds need, and livestock producers are key to keeping this endangered grassland ecosystem intact. So, if you choose to eat beef, consider purchasing from Canadian producers to support production systems that provide critical habitat for grassland birds.
Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Photo: Nick Saunders
One way to support sustainable beef production systems is to purchase beef with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) certification. The CRSB is an initiative working with multiple stakeholders, including Birds Canada, to advance the sustainability of the Canadian Beef industry. You can find out where to purchase CRSB certified beef on their webpage.
“Grass-fed beef” typically refers to beef that has been fed only a diet of grass or forage, meaning that producers raising grass-fed beef rely on pastures and hayfields that also benefit grassland birds by providing habitat.
Supporting regenerative agriculture for meat products and even grains and vegetables supports a system that can significantly reduce the amount of pesticide being used to produce food. This reduction in pesticides, particularly insecticides, can have a really positive impact on birds, particularly aerial insectivores like swallows and swifts. This group of birds has declined by nearly 60% in Canada since 1970.
There are easy ways to purchase grass-fed beef and regeneratively-produced foods through online retailers or from the producers themselves. Subscription services like Trulocal can deliver grass-fed beef and other pasture-raised meats right to your door. A new platform and app called Meatocracy helps connect producers of grass-fed producers and consumers.
Photo: Mel Toppi & Diego Steinaker
The easiest way to connect directly with grass-fed beef producers in your area is to do a quick internet search and choose a producer that is nearby! Many of them have ways to order their products online.
Even your morning cup of joe can help birds. While it’s mostly forest birds that will directly benefit from certified bird-friendly coffee, it will also help birds like Alder Flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles, and Gray Catbirds that use the shrubs and aspen groves scattered throughout aspen parkland regions of the Canadian Prairies. If you choose to buy your bird-friendly coffee from Birds and Beans and use the promo code “BirdsCanada” 10% of the cost of the coffee will be donated to Birds Canada to support our bird conservation work!
The food purchases we make have an impact on the world around us, and can shape the future for us and for birds. As the saying goes, every time we spend a dollar, we are effectively voting for the type of world we want to live in. Your purchasing power can persuade governments and corporations to shift their supply chains. So, we have terrific potential to shape a food system that can allow birds to thrive within healthy and biodiverse working landscapes, like the beautiful and unique Canadian Prairies.
Click here to read the previous articles in this series, “Prairies an ideal setting for an iconic cast of birds” and “Livestock producers are powerful allies for grassland birds.”