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Demand for free-range eggs driving farm diversification

With supermarkets and consumers turning away from eggs from caged hens, there could be opportunities for livestock farmers.


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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Demand for free-range eggs driving farm diversification

Free-range egg production could offer opportunities for farmers struggling with sheep and dairy enterprises as demand grows.

 

Bruton Knowles rural sector specialist Gareth Lay said he had seen an increasing amount of farmers looking into free-range production or expanding units as they gear up for changes in farm support after 2022.


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Supermarkets and consumers have increasingly turned away from caged bird eggs, creating opportunities for farms.

 

Mr Lay said: “Supermarkets such as Waitrose and the Co–op are leading the charge for free range eggs along with big chains such as McDonalds.

“It is a really interesting marketplace and an area where we are doing increasing amounts of work.”

 

Diversifying

 

While many may be considering diversifications, such as holiday lets or farm shops, Mr Lay said free-range hens did not require a complete change of lifestyle, although it might need high levels of borrowing.

 

“While the costs are fairly high to start, there are high rewards. Returns from the sector are significant given the fairly small area of land required,” said Mr Lay.

 

“New sheds cost anything from £700,000-£1.2 million for units to house 16,000-32,000 birds respectively.

 

“This business model suits farmers who have land and are struggling with existing enterprises such as sheep and dairy.”

 

But he highlighted public perception and the planning process as one of the biggest obstacles, with negative perceptions of broiler production creating difficulties for the whole sector.

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