The next time you take a bite of beef or pork, take a minute to ponder how that food gets from the pasture to your plate. There is a veritable team of ranchers, veterinarians and even sustainability experts working behind the scenes to find new ways to improve care for animals and the environment while making the food on your plate even more delicious.

Many food companies are working hard to offer a sustainable food supply without depleting our natural resources, which is no doubt one of the biggest challenges facing modern society. Meat industry leader Swift is at the forefront of that movement, with a solid track record for reducing its carbon, water and electricity footprint.

In fact, they recently committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. With regard to animal welfare, Swift requires all its farmer and rancher partners to follow specific animal welfare guidelines and regulations, in addition to getting additional certification of their practices.

Rancher Steve Gabel is one of those partners. Growing up in a small farm town, he spent 10 years in 4-H and went on to become the first person in his family to graduate from college. "I had an opportunity to learn what I think were some very strong, yet basic fundamental things like work ethic at a young age." He believes that has given him "a certain set of values that we try to carry over day to day in the things we do in our feedyard business."

His business, Magnum Feedyard, includes a team of 32 employees who practice sustainability in their everyday work. Gabel says it "takes

buy-in from every staff member and we've worked aggressively to get that buy-in throughout the team." He believes that as a result "we've created an atmosphere within our company where everybody supports our efforts."

Making sure animals are healthy and cared for is another integral component of the work being done throughout the supply chain. When it comes to the health of the herd, "every individual animal matters," says

veterinarian Dr. Kayla Blake. On the hog farm, there's always someone on hand "throughout every aspect of these pigs' lives. They want to make sure these animals are happy, content, fed well." And being part of the

animals' life cycle, "makes me really proud because everything that my team does actually affects the final product."

Another thing that is pretty neat? When a job becomes more than just a paycheck. "Working every day together," says Dr. Blake, "you end up being a family, and families take care of each other."

When it comes to raising livestock and reducing your carbon footprint, it is a continuous journey and there are always ways to improve.

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