Prime, grass fed — bird friendly? Audubon Society label coming to a meat aisle near you

Labels that read “prime” or “grass fed” are likely to catch your eye in the meat aisle. What about “bird friendly?”

Beginning this winter, some Minnesota-raised beef will begin featuring a green and white label from the Audubon Society that says just that.

The bird conservation group is expanding a ranch certification program it started in the West in 2017 to the Midwest. It hopes to create consumer demand for bird-friendly ranching practices and, in turn, incentivize ranchers to maintain bird habitats.

Matt Maier was one of the first Minnesota farmers to sign up. He said the conservation ranching program aligns with what he’s already doing with his land in Clearwater, Minn.

When a lot adjacent to his boyhood farm went up for sale, Maier said he jumped at the opportunity to give his kids the kind of childhood memories he cherished.

“And what I witnessed when I moved back to the land [was] insects and birds and butterflies and frogs were non-existent. All the things that I wanted them to experience were not there,” Maier said. “So I’m like, OK, I want to do something about this.”

That something is Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed, a cattle ranch that taps 1,000 acres of grazing land — 120 of it Maier’s own — to raise cattle in a way that mimics roaming bison.