Texan by Nature is excited to recognize Sanderson Farms as a 2021 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. Sanderson Farms’ commitment to conservation, their projects, programs, best practices, and lessons learned are an example and inspiration for us all.
Sanderson Farms was recognized as a 2020 TxN 20 honoree as well! Read the 2020 write-up.
Honoree Industry and Size: Agriculture – Enterprise
Sanderson Farms, Inc., founded in 1947, is engaged in the production, processing, marketing and distribution of fresh and frozen chicken and other prepared food items. Employing approximately 17,000 employees in operations spanning five states and 17 different cities, Sanderson Farms is the third largest poultry producer in the United States. With company headquarters in Laurel, Mississippi, Sanderson Farms is the only Fortune 1000 company headquartered within the state of Mississippi. Utilizing the support of more than 1,000 independently contracted growers, the company supplies poultry products to food retailers, distributors, restaurants and foodservice operators in the United States and more than 50 different countries. As a company, Sanderson Farms is committed to adopting a fresh approach in everything that it does. Not only where products are concerned, but company wide as well. Though the company has grown in size, it still adheres to the same hometown values of honesty, integrity and innovation that were established when the Sanderson family founded the company back in 1947 as a small feed, seed and farm supply business.
What is Sanderson Farm’s conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your company culture?
As a public company, Sanderson Farms’ primary responsibility is to create long-term value for our shareholders. Over the last 74 years, we have created shareholder value through our strategy of internal growth, conservative financial management, and a relentless focus on operational efficiency. However, our success has depended on more than these fundamentals. A key part of our strategic plan has always been an emphasis on our environmental and social responsibilities, and our commitment to constituents other than our shareholders.
Our success is directly tied to the success of our employees, contract producers and neighbors, the health and success of our communities, the future of the environment, the health and well-being of the animals we raise, and the satisfaction of our customers. We believe we can maximize shareholder value and create a sustainable future for our company only if we consider the interests of all of these stakeholders.
We must ensure that our company will not only survive for the long-term, but will also thrive. We believe that continuing to prioritize sustainable business practices in our operations is critical to our success over the next 74 years and beyond.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of Sanderson Farm’s business strategy?
Sanderson Farms believes strongly that we cannot fulfill our corporate purpose without conducting our business in a sustainable manner and with total integrity. Resource conservation and sustainable operations are incorporated into our strategy through operational efficiency, and efficient operations are inherently more sustainable operations because they use fewer resources, such as water, electricity and natural gas. Operating sustainably also means:
“Our founders recognized from the beginning that to be successful, we must manage our business sustainably. It was fundamental to them to focus on the ‘long run,’ or what we now refer to as the long-term, because of their belief that the company should not generate profits by compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. By helping to ensure a sustainable future for society, we also help ensure that our company will have a long-term role in meeting society’s future needs.”
– Joe F. Sanderson Jr, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Sanderson Farms.
Our business cannot be truly sustainable unless we inspire the trust of everyone who deals with our company. Learn more in this letter from Sanderson Farms’ Chairman & CEO.
Our future prosperity as a company depends on our ability to help ensure a sustainable future for society and to anticipate and manage threats to our long-term strategy from climate, social, and economic developments. Our shareholders also share our belief that the interests of our other stakeholders impact the value of their investment in us.
What are Sanderson Farms’ short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
In fiscal year 2020:
For long-term goals, we are developing a strategy for managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions including emission-reduction targets and an analysis of our performance against those targets. Sanderson Farms is also working to report the percentage of feed sourced from regions with high or extremely high baseline water stress in future years.
Read more about our 2019 sustainability successes here.
Who at Sanderson Farms is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at your company?
Our environmental services department is led by our Director of Development and Engineering, who leads conservation and sustainability efforts for the company. The environmental services department consists of three managers of environmental services and an environmental coordinator, who are all responsible for monitoring the company’s usage of natural resources like water and utilities, such as natural gas and electricity, as well as ensuring company compliance with regulations and permits. To ensure that every Sanderson Farms facility follows the company’s standards for water conservation, each plant submits a daily utility log to the corporate environmental services team to compare utility usage across the company and evaluate areas that need improvement.
In addition, each wastewater facility is managed by a specially trained environmental supervisor who is licensed in wastewater and drinking water supply operation. Environmental supervisors and wastewater operators also attend annual training seminars to obtain continuing education units necessary to maintain licensure. Environmental supervisors are at each processing facility and are responsible for monitoring water entering and leaving their facility. Armed with historical data detailing water trends from the average 24-hour period, environmental supervisors are responsible for contacting the processing facility in the event that water usage increases.
Lorri Devereaux, a Sanderson Farms Manager of Central Purchasing, has worked with her team and suppliers to identify and implement packaging materials that are over 77 percent recyclable or reusable, which based on company volumes is equivalent to eliminating the weight of 57,702 households worth of trash. In addition, Sanderson Farms diverted 96% of the generated waste from fiscal year 2019 by rendering animal by-products, like egg shells and feathers, for other product uses. Devereaux states that, “our environmental services, engineering, and purchasing departments all work together to implement sustainable practices to reduce the waste of packaging and other materials.”
Read more about our packaging and waste management practices here.
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does Sanderson Farms’ lead and participate in?
As a company intent upon feeding the world in a sustainable manner, we fully understand our obligation to do our part to protect the environment by conserving natural resources, recycling and reusing resources used in our operations and by creating renewable resources through implementation of innovative technologies. In 2010, Sanderson Farms formalized our sustainability efforts by launching the company’s corporate responsibility program, corporate responsibility council, and by forming complex responsibility teams at each of our facilities to more deliberately focus on our sustainability and environmental goals. Together, these teams work collaboratively to track progress made toward existing sustainability goals, set new goals for sustainable operation, and identify innovative practices capable of broadening the scope of the company’s current sustainability initiatives.
Our commitment to identifying innovations in sustainability includes ensuring our sustainable methods are at the top of our industry. As a founding member of the US-Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs and the International Poultry Welfare Alliance, Sanderson Farms is committed to furthering animal welfare and industry sustainability not only for our nation, but for the world. Both organizations are committed to continuous improvement in sustainability and animal welfare through leadership, innovation, multi-stakeholder communication and supply chain collaboration.
Sanderson Farms is also a proud foundational partner of America’s Conservation Ag Movement, the largest public-private partnership convening farmers, food and agriculture businesses, and the conservation community around the future of farming by bringing profitable, planet-friendly farming into the mainstream. The movement is organized by Trust In Food, a “Farm Journal” initiative, in partnership with the Farm Journal Federation. Financial and technical support is provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and leading agribusinesses, food companies, and nonprofit organizations.
In addition to these programs, the company also participates in regulatory programs that are key to operating responsibly in our industry. For example, our wastewater treatment chemical data is reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as required by the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, and our procedures are regulated by EPA programs like the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The company reports the amount of nitrate compounds, along with other chemicals, included in our wastewater for the TRI program. All water released from our wastewater treatment facilities meets the EPA’s Effluent Guidelines Program.
Stephanie Shoemaker is responsible for coordinating and monitoring Sanderson Farms’ environmental and sustainability programs, as well as evaluating and implementing government regulations concerning the environment. Learn more about Stephanie’s role as Manager of Environmental Services for Regulatory and Permitting here.
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will Sanderson Farms play in that progress?
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase by more than 35%, which means food producers like us will need to feed two billion more people in the world. For a growing population, chicken is one of the most sustainable and affordable protein sources on the market because chickens convert feed ingredients to meat more efficiently than other species of animals. No other animal protein source can yield 10,000 pounds of salable meat for every 2.3 acres of harvested soybeans and 1.6 acres of harvested corn.
According to the USDA, in the 1940s, the average farmer fed only 19 people, while in today’s world, the average farmer produces enough food to feed 165 people for an entire year. Back then, the average chicken raised for food weighed just 2.89 pounds. Today’s average broiler chicken, in comparison, weighs approximately 6.18 pounds at market weight as a result of shifting consumer preferences and years of selective breeding by poultry scientists.
In order to continue feeding America’s families with a sustainable, affordable and nutritious protein source like chicken for generations to come, we must focus our operations on efficiency, conservation, reuse, recycling, and renewable resources. Through continued innovation and improvement on our current programs and processes, agribusinesses such as ours can help to reduce hunger and food insecurity while ensuring our operations leave the environment in the areas in which we operate better than we found it and our communities stronger than when we joined them.
How does Sanderson Farms quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
The company’s financial return on our investment in conservation and sustainability efforts in fiscal year 2020 is $2,418,000 company-wide for the period. This includes:
An effective sustainability strategy requires investing significant company resources, but the return on the investment not only justifies or exceeds the initial investment, it is worthwhile simply because it is “the right thing” to do for our shareholders, employees, family farmers, customers and communities. At Sanderson Farms, we do “the right thing,” no matter how challenging it may be.
What is the one lesson that Sanderson Farms has learned from your conservation and sustainability efforts that others can take back and think about applying within their own space?
The entire Sanderson Farms family works as a team to meet our environmental responsibilities. We realize that our prospects to continue our profitable growth lie within the strength of our people–people who know, understand and commit to making efficient and responsible choices for our operations.
We also know that efficiencies translate into strong, long-term support of our environment and natural resources. This combination of a desire for efficient operations and a commitment to further improvement provides a strong foundation for continued achievement across all of our locations and continued success for all of our employees and stakeholders.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for Sanderson Farms?
When selecting a site to build a new poultry complex, Sanderson Farms evaluates locations based on a comprehensive list of site selection criteria. Potential complex sites are evaluated and scored based on data gathered such as the area’s water supply, labor pool, and rail service. Of the last seven poultry complexes the company has constructed since 1997, four of those facilities have been built in the state of Texas, because the state has been an excellent place for our company to do business. When we built our newest poultry complex in Tyler, Texas, it created over 1,700 new jobs and opportunities for more than 80 family farmers for an estimated $1.43 billion economic impact on the local area over the next 10 years. With four poultry complexes and nearly 9,000 employees in the state of Texas, Sanderson Farms is proud to be a part of generating economic growth and jobs for thousands of Texans for generations to come.
Learn more about Sanderson Farms conservation and sustainability efforts here.
When Sanderson Farms built their newest poultry complex in Tyler, Texas, it created over 1,700 new jobs and opportunities for more than 80 family farmers for an estimated $1.43 billion economic impact on the local area over the next 10 years.
$2,418,000 financial return on investment in conservation and sustainability efforts in FY 2020. This includes: over $1,418,000 in biogas savings by offsetting the cost of purchasing natural gas at the company’s processing facilities and financial returns on conservation investment in water reuse systems by offsetting the purchase of water by over $1,000,000 at all Sanderson Farms processing facilities in 2020.
Sanderson Farms diverted 96% of the generated waste from FY 2019 by rendering animal by-products, like egg shells and feathers, for other product uses.
Sanderson Farms has worked to identify and implement packaging materials that are over 77% recyclable or reusable, which is equivalent to eliminating the weight of 57,702 households worth of trash.
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