Superior Farms and Sustainability
A lot of people talk about “sustainability” these days. What does it mean? The National Meat Association defines ‘sustainability’ as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, while taking into account the environment, ethical/social concerns, and the economy.” Superior Farms is proud to be able to back up this claim. Read on to discover the various ways that Superior Farms is sustainable and responsible, from farm to fork.
First things first. It’s all about the lambs. Without a high quality flock, Superior Farms couldn’t be the superior lamb provider in the nation. We ensure this in a number of ways. Our family ranchers work with us to keep healthy, pasture raised lambs available all year. Our sheep eat natural grasses, hay or alfalfa, and sometimes other crops you might not guess, like broccoli. This supports sustainable agriculture, as the animals are rotated between fields during different times of the year and the fields are able to replenish the natural nutrients in the soil.
The Pure Lamb Program, pioneered by Superior Farms, ensures through audits that the animals are hormone and antibiotic free. As we prepare for harvest, lambs are fed all natural grains which contain no animal proteins or artificial chemicals.
Our ranchers are also dedicated to sustainable ranching, updating equipment regularly, using fuel efficient vehicles and switching to alternative fuel sources, such as solar and wind power.
From grazing lands to finishing fields, Superior Farms and the loyal small farmers with whom we work are dedicated to creating the best possible product from the purest places available.
We manage more than 65 acres of land, some of which farms alfalfa for animal feed. When Superior Farms obtained it’s property in Dixon, California, efforts were made to make sure that waste materials didn’t get into the soil. This included more controlled drainage systems. Still, some of the settling ponds were unsuitable for water recycling. Mother Nature has provided a way to help: hybrid poplar trees, which grow fast. Their growth utilized the soil and remediated the land naturally, How do we know it worked? To keep down the weeds we put sheep in the lots and, lo and behold, they took a liking to the trees and enjoyed the salt in the bark!
What a difference a day makes
Trucking is important to getting our fresh lamb to our customers, but three years ago we took a hard look at this system. Of the trucks that Superior Farms leases, we consolidated our routes tremendously. For example, rather than run trucks in the Bay Area every day, we now have an alternating system – essentially cutting out almost 5 whole routes just by being more efficient. And of course, we took a look at whether the routes were still in an efficient order – that means less miles to boot. We requested the same for our common carriers nationwide, which reduced our carbon footprint on an even larger scale. Meanwhile, minimum load requirements have been put in place to make sure we are not wasting fuel with each trip.
Technology plays a part
The silent sustainability warriors have to be in the Information & Technology department. They have been working hard to virtualize our data centers, which means that they have eliminated five large physical machines and replaced them with one efficient one. They are also planning on canceling the purchase of dozens of new desktop PCs by virtualizing the desktops and running all PCs on three efficient servers housed in our data center.
Not only that, but IT is installing video conferencing at each of our sites -- almost totally eliminating the need to travel between sites. Superior Farms plans to conduct training, perform product reviews, conduct management meetings and communicate to our sales staff via video feeds and eliminate the need for people to get on a plane. The fuel alone is a significant improvement to our carbon footprint. Most old and inefficient equipment has been recycled and replaced with Energy Star compliant products.
Recycle, recycle, recycle!
Managing resources just makes sense. That’s why Superior Farms recycles all its cardboard - about 500,000 pounds annually! We also recycle scrap metal, scrap wood and waste oil. A contract with Waste Management takes care of batteries, light bulbs, and aluminum.
The packaging we have chosen for our products is also recyclable, which drastically minimizes the amount of materials we are using. New technologies help this process succeed. For example, our new vacuum-skin pack not only reduces the amount of materials we use, but it also removes all the air from the package, which helps protect the meat from bacteria and spoilage. With this advanced packaging, the product is safer for the shopper and the environment!
And it pays to not be wasteful. Recycling and power efficiencies save the company money, so we can pass savings on to our valued customers.
Recycling our water is an important part of the local ecosystem. Superior Farms uses 150,000 gallons of water a day, but recycles every bit of it. This water, which goes through a series of ponds on our property, gets filtered and helps irrigate neighboring fields where, you guessed it, local sheep graze. The filtering process is all natural. As the water moves from pond to pond, anaerobic and aerobic methods are used with natural microbes to leave the water better than we found it.
Products from the settling ponds, as well as natural animal by-products are removed and given to an organic fertilizer company in Northern California, which creates mulch used for other farms.
Regular energy audits are crucial to make sure we are not wasting electricity. Dixon was audited in 2009 and more are scheduled for our Denver and Boston facilities. Equipment and efficient motors are a big thing. Energy efficient light bulbs are another. These two projects are constantly being upgraded a little at a time to keep things running in top condition. Constantly looking at the machinery and the process as a whole to do things the most efficient way possible.