Farmers Weekly Poultry Farmer of the Year 2014: David and Helen Brass

David and Helen Brass
The Lakes Free Range Egg Co, Penrith, Cumbria

As an ex-RAF serviceman, it is no surprise to find that David Brass is a man who likes targets.

These days they are mostly commercial and environmental ones – but they are always ambitious, and always met.

“The Brasses have continued to develop their business with new investment and marketing ideas, while passing on the benefits and savings to their producers.”
Jason Gittins, poultry consultant, Adas, andindependent judge

The company’s track record of growth is impressive, with David and Helen having taken egg sales from £500,000 to £10m in its first decade, and then more than doubling it again to £25m in the seven years since.

This growth has been brought about by developing strong relationships with key customers, including McDonald’s and most of the major retailers. “These businesses share our ethos for animal welfare and environmentally friendly, sustainable farming,” says David.

Sales have also been boosted by the development of key strategic brands, including Nature’s Nest with Morrisons and Laid With Love in Booths.

These brands are underpinned by the company’s total focus on ethical production and environmental responsibility. “We do not want to produce just another free-range egg, but one that says something about who we are,” says David.

Farm Facts

  • 100,000 owned and 550,000 contracted hens
  • 750,000 pullets reared each year
  • Packing centre handling more than 200m eggs a year

Winning Ways

  • Strong focus on environmental responsibility
  • Clever marketing
  • Innovative approach to packing
  • Welfare goes hand in hand with efficiency
  • Sense of team work and shared experience

Tree planting is seen as especially important, both in terms of bird welfare and carbon capture. And to ensure a pleasing visual effect, trees are now planted in curves, rather than straight lines.

Contracted producers are also expected to play their part and each farm has its own biodiversity action plan. They are also offered unique five-year contracts.

“Half our producers are on small, family hill farms on severely disadvantaged land,” says David. “Supporting profitability and creating a living on these farms encourages younger generations to return to farming.”

The Lakes is highly innovative, having developed a state-of-the-art packing centre to cope with its expanding sales. Designed by David, the building has numerous features to improve efficiency and protect the environment. These include ground-source heating, movement-sensitive LED lighting, rainwater recycling, laser technology to avoid the need for labels, and robotic packing devices.

There are more than 500 solar panels on the roof generating 100kW, while a new biomass boiler uses wood waste and tree thinnings to produce heat for the factory.

David has also worked closely with Bristol University to develop a new pullet-rearing facility for 20,000 chicks at a time.

“This is a dark brooding system, which emulates brooding under a hen,” he says. With a biomass boiler, underfloor heating and natural lighting, he reckons the unit uses 
90% less energy than a conventional pullet shed.

Given the company’s targets for growth, it is no surprise to learn that David is planning on putting up three more of these units in the near future.


Nick and Claire BraggNick and Claire Bragg
Frogmary Green Farm, Somerset

Educating the general public about the reality of modern broiler production is a motivational force for Nick and Claire. But as well as being ambassadors for the poultry sector, they are also very commercial and ambitious producers.

Rebecca TonksRebecca Tonks
St Ewe Free Range Eggs, Cornwall

When it comes to marketing, free-range egg producer Rebecca has all angles covered. As well as a strong regional brand, she has also developed selenium-enriched eggs, and even caters for the “six-for-a-pound” end of the market.

Sponsor’s message

Moy“Moy Park understands the dedication, commitment and passion required to succeed in the poultry sector. The Brasses have shown industry-leading, sustainable best practice and we congratulate them.”
Alan Gibson, agriculture and fresh poultry director