Family egg business wins regional grant

Two brothers who run a flourishing egg business in north-east England have secured £457,000 in grant aid from regional development agency One North East.

The money will help them to more than double the size of their laying unit and packing station enterprise at Lintz Hall Farm, near Burnopfield, County Durham.

Richard and Stephen Tulip supply a range of customers, from corner shops and hospitals, to supermarkets including Tesco and Asda. Intensively-produced eggs are marketed under the “Lintz Hall Farm” brand name, while “Derwent Valley” is used for labelling the free-range production.

The brothers, who are fourth-generation poultry farmers, produce and pack eggs from 80,000 free-range birds and 80,000 intensive. In addition to improving their grading and packing facilities, they are installing four enriched colony units, housing 140,000 birds. These will replace the cage sheds and will supply a number of local producers who are unable to invest in colony systems.

“A number of intensive producers in the region have decided to cease egg production – rather than switch to the new colony systems – when the cage ban comes into force in January 2012,” says Richard.

“Those with a strong customer base plan to continue supplying their outlets, using eggs that are produced and packed by us. Others have chosen to sell their businesses to us and join our team,” he adds.

To secure the finance, the brothers turned to their local English Farming and Food Partnership representative, who assisted them in obtaining the grant. The funding will go some way towards financing the new packing centre, which will house a Moba Omnia grader, with a 170 case/hour throughput. Richard says the old Moba 2000 was a work horse that served the business well, but lacked the capacity and flexibility that is now required.

When the expansion is complete, more than 60m eggs will be produced each year. At least six additional staff will be needed to join the existing 30-strong workforce.

“It is a big step, but it’s one we have to make to develop our business,” Richard adds. “Colony eggs will be more expensive to produce than eggs from traditional cage systems. However, economy of scale and the latest technology and equipment should help us to keep inputs as low as possible.”

Richard acknowledges the need to increase his free-range production, but believes that demand for eggs produced using more intensive systems will remain driven by consumers on a tight budget. He is one of the many producers who would like to see better labelling introduced so shoppers can differentiate between eggs from cage systems outside the EU, and those from colony cages in the EU.

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