Future Forward - How we work to be more sustainable.
Sustainability is a term many companies use as a marketing buzzword, but its true meaning goes well beyond recycling and walking to work. For a business, the core idea of sustainability is to structure their company to fulfill the needs of people today without compromising the needs of future generations.
As the world’s population has increased, so has the demand for more sustainable practices. On a practical level, as more homes are built in areas traditionally used for agriculture, there is less land available for food production.
As an agricultural company, Agri Beef, the parent company of Snake River Farms, has a special responsibility to create the most sustainable practices possible. Our company is involved in every step of beef production from start to finish, allowing us the unusual opportunity to have a larger total impact on the entire process.
One of the simplest ways for companies to decrease their environmental impact is through the purchase of carbon offset credits. A carbon offset credit is a transferable instrument certiﬁed to represent reduction of a speciﬁc amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs). A company that purchases an offset credit can claim the underlying reduction toward their own GHG
Carbon offset credits do offer a real value, but a downside is the possibility
for a company to purchase them, show a reduction in GHGs, and make no actual changes to their business practices. With an eye to becoming a truly sustainable company, we chose to dig deeper.
The ﬁrst step for Agri Beef and Snake River Farms was conducting a life cycle assessment to understand and measure the actual carbon footprint (the amount of GHGs generated) of our beef production. This includes factors like water usage, waste avenues, and emissions.
this investment in time and money established a baseline for each part of
our beef production and allows us to measure true progress.
Using this baseline, our team has identiﬁed and implemented real changes to our processes to signiﬁcantly reduce our company’s total carbon footprint. Our sustainability program includes four core pillars to affect change: ranching, feeding, processing, and community.
Sustainability programs create better use of natural resources and make our business more efﬁcient. In addition to the environmental beneﬁts, efﬁciency has a positive economic impact. All together, the hard work and cost to develop a more sustainable company makes sense for the long-term health and viability of Snake River Farms and our customers.
Ranching is the ﬁrst step of the beef life cycle and is where the Western lifestyle is on full display. Our cattle are born and raised on family owned-and-operated ranches throughout the greater Paciﬁc Northwest. We’ve nurtured relationships with many of these hard-working families for multiple generations.
As part of our sustainability program, our company is focused on strengthening the livelihood and economic viability of our partners. Working with well-managed and caring ranches ensures land stewardship by using key programs like rotational grazing and practicing the highest level of animal health and handling.
SUSTAINABILITY IN ACTION: PRODUCER GRANT PROGRAM
Ranchers, or producers, are the foundation of our success. The Producer Grant Program is a ﬁve-year initiative that reimburses ranches for projects related to sustainability, environmental stewardship, animal welfare, and the preservation of the Western lifestyle.
Agri Beef is dedicated to supporting our ranching partners and preserving the Western way of life. The Producer Grant Program is a tangible way for us to work together with ranching families to develop sustainability at the local level.
The ﬁrst step to produce beautifully marbled beef is sourcing cattle with superior genetics. These cattle have a history of scoring high on the USDA scale. Once secured, we raise them with strict and humane animal welfare practices. Advanced nutrition is critical to our success and to the health of our animals.
An example is adding steam-ﬂaked corn to their rations. This is an easily digested food source, which naturally reduces the time to bring cattle to market. The shortened time frame reduces the amount of GHGs produced by our operations.
Eating local isn’t just a popular trend for people. Our cattle enjoy the beneﬁts of farm-fresh meals, too. We develop relationships with local farmers to support the regional economy, which in turn minimizes our fuel usage.
SUSTAINABILITY IN ACTION: SYNERGY WITH LOCAL FARMS
We’re working with local farmers to revisit time-honored techniques and create a comprehensive solution to shared problems.
In Washington, we’ve initiated a program where we process the manure organic compost from our feeding operation. Farmers use the fertile, nutrient-rich organic material to replace expensive conventional fertilizers manufactured from petroleum.
We work with local farmers to create a win-win scenario that allows them to replace expensive chemicals and provides us with nutritious feed for our cattle. Farms near us grow beans, a crop susceptible to mold. Chemical fungicides are commonly used to control this problem.
Our joint program employs a cover crop called triticale, a hybrid grain of wheat and rye. The grain is planted in alternate rows and naturally controls mold. We purchase the harvested triticale and add it to our cattle rations.
This out-of-the-box thinking draws from old-world techniques and is an example of how we create sustainable systems with environmental and economic beneﬁts.
Agri Beef owns and operates its own USDA-approved processing facility in Toppenish, Washington. Food safety is a top priority. To meet our high standards and to sell our beef in international markets where food safety requirements exceed those in the United States, we are Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certiﬁed. GFSI is recognized as the gold standard of food safety audits, and certiﬁcation exceeds the strict requirements of the USDA.
Processing requires water, so our team has implemented systems to reclaim and reuse water to lower the overall usage and reduce energy requirements. Tallow is a natural by-product of this process, and we provide it in multiple food and industrial grades ranging from the same basic ingredient your great-great-grandmother might have created to make soap to technical tallow, a highly reﬁned product that can be used as biofuel to better utilize our resources.
Our wastewater system uses an aerobic lagoon with a microbial population that naturally breaks down solid matter. A by-product of this step is the production of methane, a GHG. Instead of releasing GHGs into the atmosphere, the lagoon is covered with a biodome to capture these emissions. The gas is puriﬁed to remove contaminants and water vapor and is pumped to a boiler system to heat water used in our plant.
Agri Beef is a large employer in the communities where our businesses are based. We make every effort to be a good employer and a good neighbor by creating safe work environments and offering fair wages and competitive beneﬁts. But our commitment also extends to creating a culture of caring and success.
We support local schools and organizations, just like any friendly neighbor would. Agri Beef prioritizes programs that support child and family services, food insecurity, and education (with an emphasis on the agricultural ﬁeld). Our company is also involved in the beef industry through national organizations.
SUSTAINABILITY IN ACTION: BEEF COUNTS
In 2010, Agri Beef partnered with local ranchers, feeders, industry associations, and food banks to create a program to provide beef to families in need in Idaho and Washington, the states where our business operations are located. Food banks are often in short supply of high-quality protein,
and the need for beef has increased in recent years.
Our employees volunteer at food banks to sort, box, and distribute products to the community through mobile pantries. We have been a part of contributing over 4.5 million servings of beef and have donated over $1.2 million in cash to the program.