With more consumers looking to make informed and sustainable choices, Canadian agriculture is capitalizing on new opportunities through a Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program. This mutually beneficial program helps consumers identify food and drink items made using western Canadian winter wheat. Farmers grow winter wheat as part of their commitment to sustainability through supporting nesting habitats while also realizing valuable on-farm and economic benefits.
“To meet growing consumer demand for sustainable products, food processors can become certified to showcase their use of western Canadian winter wheat and resulting contributions to prairie wildlife habitat. By working together to highlight this sustainability story, we’re unlocking new marketing opportunities for businesses and farmers, while ultimately supporting a positive impact on our environment,” emphasized Daniel Ramage, director of market access and trade policy at Cereals Canada.
This new partnership between Cereals Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Prairie winter wheat growers and end users including millers and food processors reflects a shared value strategy across the entire supply chain. The initiative will help food brands stand out in a competitive marketplace, satisfy consumer demands for more sustainable products on store shelves, support Canadian farmers and provide critical habitats for ducks, birds and other wildlife.
One of the first processors to develop certified flours in the program is Les Moulins de Soulanges, a specialty flour mill established in Quebec’s Montérégie region in 2007, and now selling to specialty bakers across North America. The company was founded on a mission to provide innovative products while also protecting the environment, supporting local and encouraging sound agronomic practices. Chafik Baghdadi, R&D/QA director at Les Moulins de Soulanges commented, “We’re in a game-changing moment as companies across the country evolve to offer consumers more sustainable choices. The Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program is the perfect fit for our company since its goals of protecting habitats, wildlife and supporting local farmers aligns perfectly with our company’s values.”
Another proud certified ecolabel partner is Beam Suntory. The world leader in premium spirits found a fit with this program through its Northern Keep Vodka, a craft vodka that puts sustainability and land protection at the forefront. Nicholas Winters, supply chain manager at Beam Suntory says, “As a leader in premium spirits, we are proud that we’re taking bold steps to drive forward on the important topic of sustainability and the environment. We know that by aligning with the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel, we can move the market in sustainable choices for consumers.”
The discovery that winter wheat provides critical habitats for wildlife is backed by Ducks Unlimited Canada’s extensive research. The Canadian conservation organization noticed that northern pintail duck populations were declining due to habitat loss. Millions of ducks and geese pass through the Prairie Pothole Region each spring looking for nesting habitat. Their research proves that ducks nesting in winter wheat are 24 times more successful than those nesting in spring-sown cereals.
Canadian farmers will also benefit from increased consumer demand for Canadian winter wheat which delivers a variety of on-farm benefits, including improved soil health and diversified cropping options. Doug Martin, who farms near East Selkirk remarked, “I’m excited about the prospect for new demand that supports wildlife habitat on the Prairies while having diverse crop options with good agronomic benefits. As a farmer, winter wheat is a key part of my rotation because it offers a wide variety of on-farm benefits that support the soil and my harvest outcomes.”
The Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program is backed by farmers and industry partners including Ducks Unlimited Canada, Cereals Canada, Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission and Manitoba Crop Alliance.
To discover more about the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program, visit habitatwheat.ca.