The "dolphin-friendly" label gave tuna an environmental face-lift in the 1980s; now, a "Wolf Country Beef" label may do the same for hamburger. The label is the brainchild of Jim Winder and Will Holder, ranchers who have teamed up with the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife. They're developing the seal-of-approval so that beef coming from ranchers who avoid killing predators will stand out in stores. The beef label will appear in March.
Winder's ranch sits on the edge
of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, and while wolves have
not yet been restored to the area, he regularly sees coyotes and
mountain lions. Winder says his grazing methods require lots of
herding time but they pay off: Coyotes have taken only two calves
since he began what he calls "predator-friendly ranching" 10 years
Across the state line on the edge of
Arizona's Apache National Forest, fourth-generation rancher Will
Holder hasn't had quite the same success. Holder says he loses on
average four-to-six cattle per year and once lost eight in a week
to a young mountain lion. But Holder accepts predator loss as
Both ranchers say the trick is imitating
the predator role so that cattle stick together. Any animal
separated from a herd is more likely to become a lion's or coyote's
next meal, they say. Their methods include training cows to group
around hay and conditioning them to bunch up at the sound of a
Wolves could play a significant role in
the ecosystem by helping to prevent overgrazing, the two ranchers
say. When cattle are threatened by predators, they keep moving, and
the presence of lions and coyotes has improved grass
re-introduction on their range, they point
In late January, the U.S. and Wildlife
Service re-introduced a family of Mexican gray wolves to the Apache
National Forest, which borders the Gila National Forest. Craig
Miller, Southwest representative for the Defenders of Wildlife,
hopes the program will "counter the myth that the recovery program
would force ranchers off the land."
be an economic asset to the region, says Holder, who hopes the Wolf
Country Beef program demonstrates that ranchers can live with
wolves and still make money. Winder adds that ranchers "are not
going to blast a wolf if they see them as an economic incentive."
They hope meat shoppers will vote with their dollars for this kind
of public-land management.
For more information,
contact Jim Winder at Lake Valley Ranch, HC 66, Box 38, Deming, NM
(505/267-4227); Will Holder at 800/977-0065; or Defenders of
Wildlife Southwest office at 520/578-9334.