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Wanted: Free Range And Pastured Egg Producers
John Brunnquell, Egg Innovations, is looking for a few good farmers willing to produce eggs from free range and pastured hens. He markets his eggs under the Blue Sky Family Farms label through Kroger, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and other supermarket chains across the Midwest, Southeast and west to the Rocky Mountains.
  “Our pasture-raised operations are all in Kentucky and southern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois,” says Brunnquell. “All the pasture birds have access to a 50-acre pasture, 365 days a year.”
  Contract producers have the choice of raising them organically or on feed free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Brunnquell currently has 65 producers in 5 Midwestern states and a feed mill that produces 2 types of feed. The free range and pasture-raised designations are important to Brunnquell and not just a marketing gimmick. The “free range” birds are free to enjoy an 11-acre pasture anytime the weather is above 32 degrees. All the hens are free to bathe in the dust, scratch, perch and forage, behaviors that Brunnquell insists are important for chickens.
  “Chickens are hardwired for those behaviors, and we believe in managing animals consistent with how they are hard-wired,” he says. “Most people in the egg production business do what’s best for the business. We do what’s best for the chicken. We are passionate about family farms and animal welfare.”
  In addition to the pasture requirements and the feed options, Brunnquell’s producers all share a common barn design. Each producer has to put up a new barn designed around the needs of laying hens and their natural behaviors. Each barn is 50 ft. wide and 520 ft. long and holds 20,000 hens.
  Pastures, large and small, are bordered by 54-in. tall, woven wire fence. Birds are kept in at night, but daytime predator loss is close to zero.
  “We lost 5 birds out of 1.3 million to hawks in 2015,” says Brunnquell.
  He says the investment for a new producer will run about $800,000. However, the free range and pasture produced eggs get premium prices in the market.
  “We offer some of the longest term contracts and highest returns in the industry,” says Brunnquell. “Contract producers can be expected to produce gross income of up to $140,000 each year.”
  Producers farther from the company headquarters have higher costs in both feed delivery and egg transportation.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Egg Innovations, P.O. Box 1275, Warsaw, Ind. 46581 (ph 414 704-1344; toll free 800 337-1951; info@egginnovations.com; www.egginnovations.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #5