Superior Farms, a national lamb packer headquartered in Davis, California, announced today that it has entered an agreement to purchase Iowa Lamb Corporation to help increase efficiencies in the sheep industry.
Spence Rule, an owner of Iowa Lamb Corporation said, “We’re excited about this. It’s an opportunity to go back to doing what we’ve done for years, and that’s feeding. We were feeders long before we were packers and this will help us get back to concentrating on the feeding business.” He, along with his brother, sister and father have owned the packing house since 1983.
While only approximately 1% of all fresh meat sales, the sheep industry contributes $1.4 billion annually to the U.S. economy with $768 million contributed to the sale of lamb and lamb products. Lamb farms and ranches in every state total 82,000. However, according to the American Sheep Industry Association, demand for lamb was down 10% in 2009 as livestock costs and subsequent retail prices increased. Supply is currently a concern. In 1990, U.S. ranchers had 11.1 million head of sheep. In January this year it had dropped to 5.6 million. Supply, along with grain and feed pricing, has caused prices for the protein to steadily increase.
Superior Farms’ CEO Ed Jenks said, “For quite some time, our feeling has been that there are a lot of packing houses that are trying to operate with minimal schedules in the US for lamb production. We saw a definite cultural match between Iowa Lamb and Superior. Ultimately it means that the packing side of the business will be more efficient and it is our sincere hope that we create operational economies of scale that allow us to keep our plant costs down and continue to encourage a consumer demand at affordable prices.”
Iowa Lamb Corporation’s consumer brand, Summit Creek, and foodservice brand, Grove Meats, will be integrated into the Superior Farms divisions. Jenks says that other than switching logos, there are no immediate plans to change anything operationally with the company. “From a producer’s prospective, this gives the entire industry better assurance that they will have packing houses that they can rely on to trade their lambs with,” he said.
Larry Rule began his career in 1950 in the livestock business. What was once a beef plant constructed in 1963, the Rule family purchased to extend its feeding and lamb processing business in 1983. They then renovated the facility in 2006.
Superior Farms was founded in Ellensburg, WA in 1963. With four facilities in the U.S., it is employee-owned and recently won the 2011 ESOP California/Western States Chapter Company of the Year.
“This transition is a win-win-win,” said Jenks, “for the great tradition that was Iowa Lamb, Superior Farms and for the whole industry.”