Certified EO is excited to spotlight Superior Farms, a 100% employee-owned processor, marketer and wholesaler of lamb. Founded in 1964, Superior Farms partners with family ranchers, many of whom have been raising sheep for generations, to bring to market sustainably-raised and antibiotic-free lamb products.
Superior Farms operates three brands of lamb products, including Cascade Creek Lamb Company, a premium brand that raises all of its sheep on pastures in open rangelands on the West Coast. The company employs nearly 400 employee-owners throughout its processing plants and offices across California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa and Massachusetts. Through its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), 401(k) matching contributions, and long-term contracts with suppliers, Superior Farms aims to help build generational wealth from grazing pastures to facility plants.
Sustainable Lamb, from Farm to Table
Many of Superior Farms’ over 1,000 ranchers spread across the western U.S. practice regenerative grazing with their lambs. This involves partnering with crop farmers to bring sheep herds onto fields after crops have been harvested, which helps boost the amount of organic matter in the soil, improve fertility, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for tractors to operate on fields. Lambs grazing on these pastures also receive nutritional benefits, help manage soil erosion and runoff, and even contribute to wildfire suppression.
Many ranchers in the company’s network raise herds on “marginal” land, meaning the land is not suitable for growing crops but is optimal for sheep to roam and graze. As undeveloped land becomes more scarce or expensive throughout the West, integrating grazing herds into croplands will provide an increasingly important option for ranchers.
In addition to soil benefits, Superior Farms has made strides in sourcing clean energy, reducing emissions in its transportation, and cutting down on plastic waste. The company’s processing plant in Dixon, CA receives up to 95% of its total energy use from wind and solar sources, and efficiency gains made in recent years have helped the company reduce its overall energy use by 28% and its natural gas usage by 54%. By sourcing all of its lamb domestically, the company significantly shortens its supply chain compared to imported lamb from Australia or New Zealand. And by shifting its packaging practices, Superior Farms was able to reduce its use of plastics by a third while also extending the shelf life of its products, helping to reduce food waste.
Steven Osguthorpe, the owner of a family farm that grazes thousands of sheep in Park City, Utah, takes pride in the family’s conservation practices and stewardship of their herds.
“We look at ourselves as the stewards of the land, and if we take care of it, it’ll take care of us. And if we abuse that land, we’re not going to be in business next year,” he previously told Superior Farms. “If I had my druthers, I would be out here herding sheep every day. I don’t think there really is a better life. It’s everything to me.”