Earth Day, held April 22, 2015 is a day when economic growth and sustainability join hands.

"American farmers and ranchers have embraced the values of this annual environmental celebration for generations," explained Holly Swee, Director of Nutrition and Consumer Information for the South Dakota Beef Industry Council. "In fact, as long as cattle have been produced on land, American farm families have been working to protect and preserve natural resources."

Swee explained that because farm and ranch families depend on the environment for not only their sustenance, but also their livelihood, they are committed to protecting it for future generations.

"About two-thirds of cattle farms and ranches have been in the same family for two or more generations. A cattle producer's legacy includes stewardship of the Earth's resources. Cattle producers are continuing to improve beef production and sustainability practices," Swee said. "To cattlemen, sustainability means balancing environmental responsibility, social diligence and economic opportunity while meeting the growing demand for beef."

In addition to being a sustainable food source, Suzanne Stluka, SDSU Extension Food & Families Program Director pointed to beef's nutritional benefits.

"With over 29 cuts of beef to choose from that meet the government's definition of lean or extra lean meat, the beef industry has made it easy for families to eat healthy and add lean beef to their weekly menus," Stluka said.

How cattle producers protect the Earth

In honor of Earth Day, Swee shares a few of the many ways raising cattle contribute to environmental sustainability and provides a few facts on the important nutrients beef provides to help us sustain health and well-being.

  • One American farmer feeds about 155 people. Experts estimate global food production will need to increase 70 percent by 2050 to feed a growing world population.
  • Cattlemen are recyclers, raising their animals on the abundant source of grains available in this country and turning their manure into natural fertilizers.
  • The beef community has improved its sustainability by 5 percent in just six years and continues to find ways to raise beef responsibly.
  • Beef is both environmentally and nutritionally efficient – cattle farming requires less land, water and energy than in the past and beef provides 10 essential nutrients, for about 150 calories per 3-ounce serving.
  • Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that is not naturally available in plant proteins.
  • Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Beef provides the most readily available and easily absorbed dietary source of iron.

Swee encourages South Dakotans to celebrate Earth Day by creating these great-tasting Saucy Beef Wraps:

1 pound Ground Beef (93% lean or leaner)

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh baby spinach

1/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained

1/4 cup shredded carrots

4 medium flour tortillas (8 to 9-inch diameter), warmed

Brown Ground Beef with onion, bell pepper and garlic in large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, breaking beef up into 1/2-inch crumbles. Pour off drippings, if necessary.

Stir in water, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, chili powder and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add spinach, beans and carrots; continue simmering 3 to 4 minutes or until heated through.

Spoon filling evenly in a row across center of each tortilla, leaving 1-1/2-inch border on right and left sides. Fold right and left sides of tortilla over filling. Fold bottom edge up over filling and roll up.