The Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program follows a three-year audit cycle, with audits in the first year and volume reporting required in intervening years. Independent, third-party audits are conducted to verify the traceability system of participating grain handlers, mills and manufacturers. The auditing approach for the ecolabel was developed to provide a foundation for supporting claims related to inclusion of winter wheat in consumer-facing products, but also practical and streamlined for program participants.
To qualify for certification status and on-product claims, the percent of winter wheat in the flour of the final product must consist of at least 30% by weight of certified Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat. A threshold of 30% or higher is used in the program to encourage use of Western Canadian winter wheat, and due to its current limited availability.
The traceability system of the winter wheat ecolabel applies to all steps in the wheat supply chain from farms to consumers, including grain handlers, mills, and manufacturers. The focus of the traceability system for the ecolabel is on each step of supply chain after grain is delivered from the farm and to the point that it is incorporated in a consumer-facing product.
- For farmers: The program leverages Canada’s robust grain classification and variety registration system enabling farmers to participate without the need for on-farm audits or certification. For that reason, the farm is not directly included in the traceability framework of the ecolabel. Farmers participate simply by growing Western Canadian Winter Wheat and delivering it to certified grain handlers or mills. Farmers are encouraged to follow best management practices.
- For grain handlers and mills: The certification process requires information on wheat classes or varieties to be collected when grain is delivered as well as farmer outreach and education, thereby ensuring that wheat is confirmed as western Canadian winter wheat as well as encouraging best management practices. A traceability system enabling the verification of labelling claims must also be maintained by following the program’s record-keeping and documentation requirements, including physical segregation of grain and maintaining documentation to track blending percentages of certified flour.
- For mills and manufacturers: When participating mills and manufacturers receive certified Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat they are required to physically segregate the certified grain and maintain a system that tracks blending percentages for flour derived from certified grain. Products that are made with certified Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat can communicate their attributes using the ‘Habitat Friendly Winter Wheat’ ecolabel to confirm the content of winter wheat in the product.
- For retailers: Retailers, such as grocery stores or restaurants, are not directly involved in the certified traceability system but can support the program’s environmental objectives and meet consumer demand for sustainability by sourcing habitat-friendly products from certified mills and manufacturers.
- Sustain wildlife habitat. The implementation of a third-party verified system to link winter wheat to consumer-facing product builds recognition around the sustainable attributes of the crop and helps promote increased acreage of winter wheat in Western Canada, thereby expanding its positive environmental impacts.
- Support farmers. Greater adoption of western Canadian winter wheat provides farmers with more options for crop rotation, on-farm benefits such as improved soil health, and diversified marketing options for their farm products.
- Help consumers make sustainable choices. The certification framework of the ecolabel allows consumers to better understand the sustainability attributes of products made from winter wheat and allows a stronger link between consumers and the farms that grow their food. The traceability system also helps recognize the value-add provided by Canadian grain handlers, mills, and manufacturers in the winter wheat supply chain.
The Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program is founded on effective and balanced stakeholder engagement. The framework for the program was created through consultations and meetings of the multi-stakeholder Winter Wheat Working Group from July 2020 to January 2021. The Working Group consisted of relevant stakeholders from business, government, non-governmental organizations, farmer and farm-level organizations, as well as winter wheat end-users. The involvement of Ducks Unlimited Canada as a stakeholder from the NGO community is important to provide outside credibility for sustainability claims.
The claim of the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel Program is based on several years of research demonstrating the benefits of western Canadian winter wheat in providing habitat for waterfowl and other birds. The ecolabel establishes a traceability system that links western Canadian winter wheat from the farmer to consumer-facing product. This allows the identification of products made from winter wheat and facilitates communication about the benefits of winter wheat to a broad audience. In the case of the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel, the representation from Ducks Unlimited Canada also brings scientific and research expertise related to the environmental benefits of western Canadian winter wheat.
See relevant research supporting the ecolabel claim below:
- Davis, S.K., D.A. Kirk, L.M. Armstrong, J.H. Devries, and R.J. Fisher. 2020. “Shifting from Spring Wheat to Winter Wheat: A Potential Conservation Strategy for Grassland Songbirds in Cultivated Landscapes?” Biological Conservation 245 (May): 108530.
- Devries, J.H., L.M. Armstrong, R.J. MacFarlane, L. Moats, and P.T. Thoroughgood. 2008. “Waterfowl Nesting in Fall-Seeded and Spring-Seeded Cropland in Saskatchewan.” Journal of Wildlife Management 72 (8): 1790–97.
- Skone, B.R., J.J. Rotella, and J. Walker. 2016. “Waterfowl Production from Winter Wheat Fields in North and South Dakota: Winter Wheat and Duck Nest Success.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 80 (1): 127–37.