With contented flocks pecking about in rich grass, hedgerows and ditches, pioneering Hoads Farm in Sussex showcases the free range ideal. ‘We were one of the first to go into commercial, free range egg production,' explains director Adrian Potter.
‘Our family has been involved in the poultry industry since the early 1920s, but it was my mother who decided to start producing free range eggs commercially. She felt it was better for the hens, so we committed to being a free range only farm; and we've never wavered from that.'
The family started with just 200 hens, and this has grown to over 100,000. ‘Tesco's long-term commitment as a customer has given us the incentive to invest in the highest standards of welfare, quality control and traceability on our farms,' says Adrian.
The hens generally wake up at 5am and lay their eggs in the morning. These are rolled onto a conveyor belt and taken to the packing station. They arrive at stores very fresh, in just one to three days. The farm can trace all eggs back to the exact flock and date they were laid, and it also adheres to both the BEIC and RSPCA Freedom Foods standards for free range eggs.
‘Free range just makes sense to me,' says Adrian. ‘It's lovely seeing the hens pottering about - with 400 birds per acre, they get a good amount of space.
‘Hens are inquisitive creatures so they love exploring the range, picking up worms, beetles and other little insects which supplement their diet. Allowing them room seems a small price to pay for the much improved welfare of the birds.'