Texan by Nature is excited to recognize Sanderson Farms as a 2022 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.
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. With more than 18,000 employees in operations spanning five states and 17 different cities, Sanderson Farms is the third-largest poultry producer in the United States. As a company, Sanderson Farms is committed to adopting a fresh approach in everything they do, 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. In Texas, Sanderson Farms employs over 6,500 people at processing plants, hatcheries and feed mills in Bryan, Easterly, Lindale, Mineola, Palestine, Tyler, Waco and Oakwood, Texas.
What is Sanderson Farms’ conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your culture?
As a public company, our primary responsibility is to create long-term value for our shareholders. Over the last 75 years, we have created shareholder value through our strategy of internal growth, conservative financial management and a relentless focus on operational efficiency. But 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 in 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 75 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. Efficient operations are inherently more sustainable because they use fewer resources, such as water, electricity and natural gas. Operating sustainably also means providing our employees with a safe place to work; fair pay and benefits; fair, equitable, and inclusive treatment; requiring humane treatment of the birds under our care; providing our customers with the highest quality and safest products possible while listening and being responsive to their needs; building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with our contract producers and supporting them and their efforts to succeed in their chosen vocation; operating in an environmentally sound way; and participating in and supporting our communities. Our business cannot be truly sustainable unless we inspire the trust of everyone who deals with our company.
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.
“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.
What are Sanderson Farm’s short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
In the fiscal year 2020, Sanderson Farms aimed to reduce our natural gas usage by 2% compared to the previous year by increasing our production of renewable energy or biogas. This goal has since been exceeded as we have reduced our natural gas usage by 3.9% in fiscal year 2020 compared to the previous fiscal year. In the fiscal year 2021, the company has set another goal of reducing our natural gas usage by 2% compared to the previous fiscal year by increasing our production of renewable energy or biogas.
In fiscal year 2020, Sanderson Farms aimed to reduce our water usage per salable pound by 3% compared to the previous fiscal year. This goal has since been exceeded as we have reduced our water usage per salable pound by 6.8% compared to the previous fiscal year. In fiscal year 2021, the company has set another goal of reducing our water usage per salable pound by 3% compared to the previous fiscal year.
For long-term goals, we are working toward developing a strategy for managing Greenhouse Gas Emissions including emission-reduction targets and analysis of our performance against those targets. The company is also working to report the percentage of feed sourced from regions with high or extremely high baseline water stress in future years.
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, Paul Billingsley, 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 the company complies 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 operations. Environmental supervisors and wastewater operators also attend annual training seminars to obtain continuing education units necessary to maintain licensure.
Environmental supervisors at each processing facility are responsible for monitoring water entering and leaving their facility. Armed with historical data detailing water trends in the average 24-hour period, environmental supervisors are responsible for contacting the processing facility in the event that water usage increases.
If water usage increases significantly, water usage audits are performed to ensure that all unnecessary water usage is eliminated. Realistic goals are set for each size and type of processing plant throughout the five states and seventeen different communities in which the company operates. Throughout Sanderson Farms, water conservation practices are emphasized to employees through on-the-job training and implemented through regulating water service pressure, specifically sizing orifices on spray wands, preventing leaks and specifically sizing pumps and spray nozzles for the task at hand to ensure no water is wasted.
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does Sanderson Farms lead and participate in?
As a company intent on 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 creating renewable resources through innovative technologies. In 2010, Sanderson Farms formalized our sustainability efforts by launching the company’s corporate responsibility program, corporate responsibility council and 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.
Part of 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.
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 percent, 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 sources like chicken for generations to come, we must focus our operations on efficiency, conservation, reuse, recycling and renewable resources. Through continued innovation and improvement of 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?
Sanderson Farms evaluates our return on conservation and sustainability by monitoring renewable energy production utilizing technology associated with our state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facilities and our in-house environmental services team. This team also monitors utility usage at all of our facilities each day and identifies ways to conserve utilities by installing energy-efficient lighting sources, generating renewable energy and by conserving, reusing and recycling natural resources.
In the fiscal year 2021, the company’s financial return on conservation and sustainability efforts included over $1,698,000 in biogas savings by offsetting the cost of purchasing natural gas at the company’s processing facilities in Collins, Mississippi; Kinston, North Carolina; St. Pauls, North Carolina; Moultrie, Georgia; Palestine, Texas; Waco, Texas; and Tyler, Texas.
Secondly, the company received a financial return on our conservation investment in water reuse systems by offsetting the purchase of water by over 1,387,584,000 gallons saved per year through reuse water in 2021 and over 1,299 million gallons of water applied back to groundwater by land treatment in 2021.
Thirdly, the company saved 226,466 kWh of electricity in the calendar year 2021 due to utilizing energy-efficient LED lighting in select processing facilities.
Finally, Sanderson Farms generated 309,561 MMBTUs of renewable energy or biogas, which conserved natural gas by reducing the volume of natural gas purchased in our facilities by the same amount in calendar year 2021.
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 responsibility. 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, as 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. 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.
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 the company complies with regulations and permits.
Sanderson Farms utilizes energy-efficient LED lighting in select processing facilities. Sanderson Farms generated 309,561 MMBTUs of renewable energy or biogas, which conserved natural gas by reducing the volume of natural gas purchased in its facilities by the same amount in the calendar year 2021.
Sanderson Farms has reduced its water use intensity by 44% since 2008 and saved 1,299 billion gallons of water in 2021
DFW Airport, Texas
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