Predator-Friendly Beef for Hamburger-Hungry Hippies

Predator-friendly beef? What sounds like a contradiction in terms is, in fact, a new label that will appear on beef products from ranches whose proprietors believe in sharing their land with all indigenous wildlife, including coyotes, mountain lions and wolves.Last October, Craig Miller of Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit organization, introduced predator-friendly beef. About 100 people attended the event at the Albuquerque Biological Park, anxiously awaiting a free burger made from Heritage Ranch beef, a product of Jim Winder's wolf-country New Mexico ranch. Between bites, they read about the evolution of predator-friendly beef and learned that "cattle ranching [and] 'environmentally friendly' need not be mutually exclusive any longer."Cattle ranchers such as Jim Winder of Heritage Ranch Beef represent a new generation of ranchers in the Southwest, a small but growing number of ranchers who welcome the reintroduction of predators like the Mexican wolf, because of the species' intrinsic importance to the ecosystem.A Heritage Ranches' flyer says its "livestock are managed to mimic natural grazing patterns, and ... we recognize the importance of predators like coyotes, wolves and mountain lions to the ecosystem's health. Choosing to share the land with indigenous wildlife has earned us the 'Excellence in Grazing Management' award from the Society for Range Management."For the better part of this century, a federally supported predator-control program used poisons, guns and traps to eliminate species that threatened livestock. In 1914, the capture or kill of a Mexican wolf paid bounties as much as $10, and by the late 1970s Mexican wolves no longer existed in the United States.Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing Mexican wolves to part of their historic range in the Apache National Forest in eastern Arizona.Undoubtedly, predator-friendly beef will cost more, but, as Miller said, it will be worth it. He urged that the cost of restoring the environment be shared with a public who really cares for the environment, who will focus their spending on environmentally sound products, and thus enable this kind of ranching to be economically feasible.For information about predator-friendly beef, call Heritage Ranches at (505)344-6138.

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