Epic 2018: ‘Young guns’ join established names on stage

One of the highlights of EPIC in 2016 – the event’s 50th anniversary year – was the “Young Guns” slot.

As well as providing a fascinating insight into their businesses and their approaches, Mathew Davies and Patrick Hook were the perfect foil to some of the more wizened speakers who addressed the conference.

That successful formula is being resurrected for 2018, this time with 4 new voices covering the egg, meat and breeding parts of the poultry sector. They are:

  • Brendan Duggan of Aviagen, which provides pedigree breeding stock for the commercial broiler sector
  • Rebecca Tonks of Cornwall-based St Ewe Free Range Eggs, producing packing and processing for the foodservice, supermarket and manufacturing sectors
  • James Corbett of Ridgeway Foods, a family business producing and packing eggs, with a pullet rearing operation
  • Tom Wornham – a 4th generation Hertfordshire broiler grower

Poultry World put some questions to the 4 speakers, to get a feeling for what they will be talking about.


The theme of this year’s EPIC is “Preparing for tomorrow today”. What is the main challenge facing your business, and how are you preparing for it?

BD: Brexit, including accessing skilled labour, potential trade tariffs and transportation. It is too early to predict what impact a no-deal Brexit would have on our business, but we have been engaging with government and planning for a number of different scenarios.

RT: With the egg market currently in oversupply, our biggest challenge is how we manage ever increasing feed prices and other costs, while being pressured by the foodservice, supermarket and manufacturing sectors to lower prices. We are asking our customers to stick with us and help us balance the market, by supporting and nurturing a longer term relationship.

JC: One of the biggest challenges facing to the egg industry is the transition away from colony egg to a cage-free alternative. As part of my recent Nuffield scholarship, I travelled to see how countries such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand are reacting to the same challenges. It was interesting to see the growth in the barn egg market and the different production systems it was coming from.

TW: Succession planning and life longevity. My father is healthy, keen to work and under 70. The concept of a three-stage life – education, work, then retirement – is being challenged. I hope to expand and develop our business to accommodate this challenge, while improving my journey in life.

EPIC 2018 – Can you afford to miss it?

This year’s EPIC will once again take place at the Celtic Manor hotel in South Wales on 4 and 5 November.

As well as the “young guns”, the stellar line-up of speakers includes DEFRA farm minister George Eustice, his Labour counterpart David Drew, PD Hook boss James Hook, Nobel Foods CEO Dale Burnett, NFU president Minette Batters, AHDB chairman Peter Kendal and former CEO of Dyson – Martin McCourt.

Full information about the event and details of registration can be found on the website or phone EPIC secretary Howard Birley on 01480 217318

What key piece of advice would you give a young person looking to come into the poultry sector?

BD: Go for it and keep an open mind. Poultry is an exciting industry, with many opportunities to have a fulfilling career while making a real difference. With jobs ranging from genetics, R&D and veterinary science to finance and marketing, we can all be part of an industry that is helping to feed a growing global population.

RT: Every day is a school day! Learn from the poultry market’s current situation. Be prepared by looking further than just over the farm gate. Have an understanding of the wider industry, including packers’, processors’ and feed companies’ points of view.

JC: The poultry industry is a fantastic industry to be involved in. Try to gain some experience in the different areas such as production, packing or processing. If you are passionate and enthusiastic, there is definitely a career waiting for you.

TW: Assuming the individual has researched the industry and decided which sector they want to be involved with, then I’d suggest keeping a tidy work place. Paying attention to the small things means the bigger concerns are easier to deal with. Finally, to paraphrase Baz Luhrmann, join a choir! You’ve got to make time to pursue what makes you happy.

Young Poultry Person of the Year

Entries are now open for this year’s EPIC Young Poultry Person of the Year Award – designed to recognise emerging young talent in the sector. If you are under 40, or know someone who is, then please email up to 500 words to EPIC committee member Philip Clarke at philip.clarke@rbi.co.uk explaining how that person is making a difference and why they deserve the award.

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