A leading Northern Ireland egg company has reached a milestone of 194 local production units and, from July 2018, will supply over 70% of the eggs sold on the shelves of Marks & Spencer stores across the UK and Ireland.
Family-owned Skea Egg Farms Ltd, based in Dungannon in County Tyrone now supplies over 63 million eggs to M&S each year.
Steve Hayes, Sales Director at Skea Egg Farms said: “We started to supply to M&S in 1997 in just seven stores. Today, Skea Eggs can be found in all M&S stores across the UK and Ireland.
“All the eggs are produced here in Northern Ireland by local farmers, which underlines Marks & Spencer’s real commitment to the province.”
Skea Egg Farms, which employees 136 people at its Donaghmore packing centre, supplies M&S with Free Range, Organic and Omega 3 eggs.
Since 1997, M&S has only sold free range eggs and in 2002, became the first ever food retailer to use only free-range eggs in all its products including prepared meals.
Steve Hayes continued: “Our vision is to produce a high quality, welfare friendly, commercially viable and fully traceable product and we work very closely with our farmers to ensure we deliver just that. We now have 156 local units producing free range eggs from over 1.2 million free range birds, and 38 local units producing organic eggs from over 110 thousand birds.”
County Tyrone farmer Graeme Boden and his wife Linda started their free-range egg business in 2010 and now have 16,000 birds supplying M&S with fresh eggs through Skea Egg Farms. Health and welfare is very important to Graeme and he spends a good deal of time ensuring that his flock’s every need is catered for.
Ventilation is something Graeme is very focused on monitoring his houses carefully to ensure that they remain cool, even in the warmer weather. Graeme walks the houses at least five times every day to check conditions and even wears separate colour coats in each house, so that the hens are familiar with him.
To keep the hens interested and to prevent any possibility of stress, Graeme has installed a variety of innovative enrichment items inside and outside the houses, such as old wellington boots and traffic cones.
Out on the range Graeme is planting trees for shelter and has man-made shelters for shade and pallets for perching. In addition to this he has created dust baths for the birds and uses multi-vitamins to keep the birds’ immunity up and reduce the risk of disease.
Renewables and energy efficiency is important too and the family have invested in solar PV and LED lighting to significantly reduce their energy usage.
Steve McLean, M&S Head of Agriculture said: “At M&S, we are totally committed to animal welfare and believe that the better the standards of welfare and care to the birds, the better the quality end product. Customers are able to buy free range eggs from us, knowing that we only source from trusted farms that treat their hens well.”
Marks & Spencer is a platinum sponsor at this year’s Balmoral Show which will be held at Balmoral Park from 16-19 May. Skea Eggs will be in attendance on the M&S show stand where visitors can come and see day old chicks spreading their legs and wings and learn about M&S free range eggs. Kids can also watch a video through binoculars of life on a free-range egg farm.