No Cows, No Grass, No Birds

How Panorama Organic and the National Audubon Society Are Working Together to Save All Three

Kay Cornelius, general manager of Panorama Organic, rancher Dave Hutchinson, and Marshall Johnson of Audubon Conservation Ranching visit Hutchinson’s Nebraska ranch in March, 2021.

What does a grazing cow have in common with a Western Meadowlark? Both the cow and the bird inhabit the  grasslands and prairies of the Western U.S., land that’s under assault from rampant development and the quest to create more farmland for row crops—among them corn, soy, field peas, and wheat. Grasslands are disappearing at the rate of more than a million acres a year, and that’s one reason Panorama Organic has joined the National  Audubon Society’s Conservation Ranching initiative. Soon, consumers all over the country will be able to find Audubon’s “Grazed on Bird Friendly Land” seal on packages of Panorama’s organic, grass-fed beef.

For 115 years, Audubon has been the voice for birds in the Western hemisphere. “We have an obligation to be innovative, to be open minded, and to always lead with science as it relates to the protection of birds,” says Marshall Johnson, vice-president of Conservation Ranching at Audubon. “Over the last 40 years, there has been no more imperiled species of birds than grassland birds, those songbirds found on rangelands, pastures, and grasslands throughout the United States. We recognized early on that partnership between Audubon and ranchers was mission critical to saving them.” 

According to Johnson, Western Meadowlark populations have declined by 57 percent since the 1970s, and other grassland species like Chestnut-Collared Longspurs, Bobolinks, and Dickcissels are also imperiled. He says the current trend toward plant-based diets and alternative meats is a destructive one for habitats. “Grasslands are being converted to support the growing popularity of plant-based diets, and we need balance. Well-managed ranches are the ultimate solution, not plowing up grassland and putting plants in their place.” 

Johnson points out that more than 90 percent of grassland birds live on cattle ranches. “We have a pretty simple kind of approach,” he says. “No cows, no grass, no birds.”

The fit between Panorama Organic and the National Audubon Society is a natural one. “There’s so much values alignment between how Audubon is going about this program and how Panorama has sustained and grown its brand and its following over the years,” says Johnson. “So bringing these two brands, approaches, and networks together really has been, from the outset, a win-win situation.” 

But why do birds matter, especially to ranchers? It’s all about a healthy ecosystem. “It’s a cascade effect,” says Johnson. “Birds go silent, and that’s an indication that we’re losing pollinators. That also says much about wildlife and biodiversity, as well as soil health. When we lose grasslands, we diminish the ability of soils to function at their highest ability. We release carbon out of the soils and into the atmosphere and we also degrade the ability of the soils to sequester, filter, and discharge water, as well as to recharge our aquifers, rivers, and streams. So birds are great indicator species of the bigger calamity that we’re in the midst of.”

Panorama Organic’s network of 34 ranches manages about a million acres across the Western U.S., all of it organic.  Land conservation has always been a cornerstone of the company’s philosophy. In addition to the already-stringent USDA Organic and Global Animal Partnership Step 4 animal welfare standards by which Panorama Organic ranchers operate, as part of the Audubon program each ranch will be following a specific habitat management plan developed in consultation with an Audubon rangeland ecologist. That plan includes protocols meant to enhance soil quality; increase species diversity in terms of the plant life that benefits pollinators, like bees and butterflies; and to  restore habitat for grassland birds and other animals. 

When a consumer sees the bird-friendly seal on a package of Panorama Organic meat, what does it mean? “When I think about the seal and what we’re wanting to communicate with it,” says Johnson, “it’s that not only were these practices and standards met, but a third-party verification through Food Alliance ensures that the standards and the expectations were met.” For the 48 million bird lovers in the U.S., buying Panorama Organic meat with the National Audubon Society’s seal allows them to use their purchasing power to vote their consciences and to support ranchers committed to not only supplying quality products, but to regenerating habitat for wildlife and restoring ecosystems, as well. 

Johnson says the National Audubon Society is proud to lend its name to livestock practices that sustain and restore habitat. “The Audubon brand has stood for environmental and eco-conscious policy, advocacy, and communities  for more than 115  years—I think there’s really nothing quite like that,” he says. “We come to this to change the narrative, change the reality on the ground as it relates to sustainable beef and bison production. I think there’s nothing quite like the Audubon brand, Audubon certification, and the Audubon name in this space at this time.” 

Panorama Organic’s long-term commitment to conservation offers consumers an opportunity to participate in a meaningful effort to solve some of the significant problems facing the planet without having to invest in an electric car or solar panels. While a package of organic, grass-fed beef may cost slightly more than the commodity alternative, it makes a difference. The next time you buy beef, look for the Panorama Organic label. The Bobolinks, Western Meadow-larks, and Chestnut-Collared Longspurs will thank you.

A Journey Through Whole30: GM Kay Cornelius Talks About Her Experience

Kay Cornelius is Panorama’s general manager, and last fall, she decided to try the Whole30 eating plan. Panorama Organic’s organic, grass-fed meats are all Whole30 Approved, so it seemed a natural fit when she was looking for something to try to overcome some minor health issues she and her husband were experiencing. This is her story.

Kay Cornelius holding reins of a horse in front of red barn wall
Kay Cornelius

Why were you interested in trying Whole30?

I was having joint issues and my husband had severe headaches. I’ve also always wanted to lose a little weight. I’m sure my husband does, too. I was really worried about him because he had debilitating headaches last summer where he just couldn’t function for several days. And I remember reading about Whole30. Whole30 isn’t a weight loss diet; you actually remove everything for 30 days and let your body eat real foods on a regular schedule, and then slowly introduce foods back and figure out what your triggers are. So I told him I was going to do it and he should join me because that’s how we’re going to cook. I did it actually to see if it would help my husband more so than me. He didn’t know that, but that’s what I did. 

When did you start the Whole30 program?

I started September 14, 2020, which was also my first day at Panorama. In retrospect, I think “Whoa, could I have possibly done that?” But it worked out well. I really enjoyed being on that diet because it’s just what I like to eat. And my husband stuck with me. He was almost as religious as I was about following it to the letter. 

What did you like about Whole30? 

I found the day-by-day planner they give you really helpful for motivation. Every morning I would read the little chapter about the day and I’d be like, yeah, that’s what I experienced yesterday, or, you know, this is what I think I will experience today. And it was pretty spot on. And gosh, by probably day 10, I was feeling great. And my husband was feeling great. He actually was losing a lot of weight, dropping a pound a day. 

I really enjoyed eating that way and eating pure meat and pure vegetables and cooking them together. And there’s no better time than September when gardens are at their absolute peak for vegetables, right before the first frost when everything is ripening. You always have a bountiful basket of vegetables. And it’s especially nice that Whole30 recommends Panorama Organic grass-fed meat. 

What kind of effect did Whole30 have on you?

I had more energy. I felt more vibrant. After I got through the first few days, I felt like I could tackle the world. I don’t know if it was the diet or the words in the book, but for me, it was really great. In fact, when I reached my day 30 I really didn’t want to go off it, other than I wanted to have a cocktail. I felt like I achieved something I needed to. I was invited to a little kid’s birthday party where they had coconut cream cake and I didn’t even take a taste. When I got through that birthday party, I knew I could do it. 

So I felt better as a result. We’ve slowly introduced things back and we found things that we were fine with living without, like milk in my coffee. I used to be religious about that—I couldn’t drink coffee without milk, but I drink it black now. I realized that I can cook burgers and grill steaks and cook roasts and I don’t need to add those seasonings that have sugar in them. But I do like having my cocktail now. 

I lost 12 pounds, which made me feel good. I’ve gained about six of it back now, but I don’t feel bad about it. I’m not a body conscious person. But I feel good. I feel really good. 

What about your husband? Did his headaches go away?

They did while we were on Whole30. And they did as we were introducing things back and then they stayed away for a while. Now, he still gets them, but he hasn’t had them as frequently, so I don’t know what it is that triggers them.

Did Whole30 actually change your way of eating and looking at food?

It did. I like to eat mayonnaise on a burger, and mayonnaise has sugar in it. One day early on I went to a grocery store to look for no-sugar mayonnaise because Whole Foods said they had it. They have a whole wall of mayonnaise, and at the very bottom by my feet were the ones without sugar. I was turning over jars to look for sugar on the label. Eventually I learned I could just look for the Whole30 symbol. It was the same thing with bacon and sausage. At the meat counter, I just quit looking at labels and bought the stuff that said Whole30. It was very handy to see that, and now I see the value of having that Whole30 on the front of Panorama’s products. It just makes shopping so much easier. 

I thought I would miss pasta, but I didn’t. I really got to learn to love spaghetti squash. In fact, I overheard my husband telling his buddies the other day that he prefers spaghetti squash to real spaghetti.

Package of Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Beef Stew Meat

What was the hardest part for you? 

Particularly working at home during COVID, I would snack all the time. Whole30 is not only about eating clean, but also about just eating three meals a day—a breakfast that satisfies you and then not eating until lunch. You eat something at lunch that satisfies you, and then you don’t eat again until dinner. So it took discipline to not snack or graze throughout the day. 

The other thing about Whole30 is that there’s a certain satisfaction in having something that’s crunchy. It’s not a vegetable; it’s more like the crunchy crust of a good bread or a tortilla chip. Celery doesn’t quite do it. I couldn’t seem to find a recipe that could deliver that. So the two things I missed most were an occasional cocktail and the crunch.

Do you still read labels and try to eliminate sugar?

I actually do. The sugar and the massive amount of bread and pasta we used to eat are triggers for me. I’m not a big sweets eater, but we’ll eat carbs. I realized they made me feel sluggish and a little foggy. If I eliminate those even for a week now, I notice my thinking is clearer and my overall well-being is just better. 

What other things will you carry forward from Whole30?

I like to eat meat, I really do, so I try to fill up my plate with protein and vegetables and very little starch or sugar. I try to avoid snacking and I eat whole foods rather than processed foods. I watch my labels. 

What would you tell others who might be considering Whole30?

I just think that each person is unique, and so is what works for them. This happened to work for me. 

I’m super proud of the fact that Panorama can be part of these eating plans like Whole30 and paleo that are good for the mind and good for your well-being. Everything we do in product development is with an eye towards being Whole30 approved because as a Whole30 person, I appreciate that on the label.