An unhappy marriage?
The relationship between farmer, packer and retailer has historically been a somewhat
uneasy one. Farmers contracted to a packer do not get to negotiate direct with the retailer,
and it could be said that the packer operates a rather closed shop. Farmers are left with the
decision to have guaranteed egg sales at a lower rate, or take the leap of faith and go
independent of a packer contract. Nerve-wracking when you have tens of thousands of eggs
being produced daily.
The lack of choice of packer, together with complexities within a contract – think electricity
bill and you get the idea – add to the confusion for farmers.
Going it alone
I have long believed that the packers have too strong a hold on farmers in the UK, and I
would like to see an increase in the number of farm businesses switching from a packer
contract to becoming independent.
One such farming family is L J Fairburns, who for many years were under a contract with the
biggest UK packer, but decided it was time for change. Having borrowed to invest in the
family business and then been squeezed when feed prices soared and egg prices remained
depressed, they took the brave decision to wave goodbye to their contract and started
negotiating directly with major retailers. As well as undertaking direct negotiation, they also
took on every other role within the journey of the egg to your plate; rearing their own chicks,
producing and milling their own feed, and packing and marketing their own eggs.
Such was their success, they have subsequently been joined by farmer friends and as a
result are now producing
of eggs a week and selling them into Aldi, Sainsburys and
Iceland, whilst their own brand eggs – Lincolnshire Free
Range Eggs – end up on shelves in Asda and The Co-op.
Their ethos is simple: fairness. They know every stage of egg
production, the hard work involved, and the risks in getting
their eggs to market.
I hope they, and more like them, thrive within the egg industry.
The Fairburn family