A new Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program launched this week will help consumers identify environmentally friendly products that provide critical habitat for ducks, birds and other wildlife.

The program helps consumers identify food and drink items made using western Canadian winter wheat.

“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,” said Daniel Ramage, director of market access and trade policy at Cereals Canada.

The project is a partnership between Cereals Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Prairie Winter Wheat Growers and end-users including millers and food processors.

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. Another certified Ecolabel partner is Beam Suntory.

The discovery that winter wheat provides critical habitats for wildlife is backed by Ducks Unlimited Canada’s extensive research. The 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 proved 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.

“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,” said Doug Martin, who farms near East Selkirk.

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.

Cereals Canada is the program administrator.