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5 ways American ranchers are leading the beef industry

March 19, 2018

“Beef. It's what's for dinner!”

One of the most memorable ad campaigns in recent history turns 25 this year, but the beef industry today is a whole different rodeo.

Cattle ranching, cowboys, cattle drives — they're a slice of Americana and an indelible part of our culture. But who are today's ranchers? They are stewards of our earth — more focused on sustainability, the environment and ethical beef production than ever before.

Today's ranchers, feeders and packers help consumers feel good choosing beef for dinner. Not only is it nutritious and delicious, but it's better for the environment, too.

"U.S. beef is the most sustainable on the planet," says Bill Thoni, vice president of cattle procurement for Cargill Protein. "Ranchers are environmentalists — stewards of our water, soil and grasslands. They are leaders at feeding, breeding, raising and caring for animals in ways that reduce stress on all resources — the land, the water and the animals themselves."

The beef industry is raising beef to higher standards, and it shows. Here are 5 ways American ranchers are leading the industry:

1. Grazing and sustainability. According to the USDA, the vast majority of cattle ranches are family operations, often going back generations. Ranchers today know that they must always be looking for ways to be more sustainable and good for the environment, or that legacy won't continue. Grazing keeps carbon locked in the soil, helping to ensure the grasslands and pastures will be around for the next generation of ranchers.

2. Higher quality meat. Beef has always been nutritious, but today's beef takes it up a notch. One of the reasons is improved animal nutrition. It's an ultra-precise science that measures nutrients down to the parts per million, ensuring that the cattle are getting what they need to be healthy. The USDA certifies cuts as Prime, Choice and Select, so consumers know exactly what they are buying.

3. Wildlife habitat. Ranching provides habitat for many species, not just cows and calves. One example is Central Florida’s largest ranch, also one of the largest ranches in the U.S., boasting some 300,000 acres. But it's not all just cows and grasslands. There are wetlands, woodlands and citrus groves, too. Along with providing grass for cows and calves to graze, the ranch is home to one of Florida’s largest rookeries for the endangered Florida wood stork. There's even a full-time wildlife biologist on staff to tend to the 300 species that call it home.

4. Improved feedyards. Like ranches, feedyards are often run by families, and in recent years, they have made great progress in animal welfare and reducing environmental impact. Advances at the feedyard help ensure cattle are healthy — software monitors the animals' health and veterinarians tend to them.

5. Environmental focus. Ranchers and farmers are committed to using more sustainable feed, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient runoff into the rivers and streams, and maximizing water conservation.

For ranchers, it's about doing well by doing right by the animals, the land and the community so we can feel better than ever about saying: “Beef. It's what's for dinner!”

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