Farmers, retailers and industry stalwarts collect 2017 Free Range Awards

The association representing British free range egg producers has presented special awards to Lion chief Mark Williams, Peter Humphrey of Humphrey Feeds and to John Cessford, who for many years organised the annual conference of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA).

At this year’s BFREPA conference, Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), was handed an award for his for outstanding contribution to the egg industry, following his handling of the avian influenza crisis last winter and its potential threat to the country’s free range layer flock.

The association said Mark was the “principle driving force in co-ordinating industry stakeholders to hold together on the issue of over-stickering free range egg packs, which would otherwise have been downgraded to barn eggs when a significant proportion of the country’s producers were required to keep their birds housed by the chief veterinary officer beyond 12 weeks.” Under existing EU rules, free range birds can only be locked up for 12 weeks before losing their status, but Mark negotiated an agreement with Defra that egg boxes would be stickered with a label explaining to consumers that birds were being kept in for their own welfare.

BFREPA’s award citation read, “By his determined action, he saved producer members of BFREPA several million pounds in lost revenue compared to producers on the near continent, who did not enjoy the same result. This was the single greatest contribution to free range producers in the last twelve months and in my opinion Mark was way ahead of the leaders of other bodies in effecting this outcome.”

Peter Humprey was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award by BFREPA for his contribution to the egg industry for more than 50 years. 

“Peter has worked in the poultry industry for 55 years, starting in 1962. The Humphrey’s family business, as with free range poultry farming in general, has come a long way. For Peter Humphrey, that is the exciting part of working in the industry,” read the award citation. “Peter’s enthusiasm for UK agriculture is evident and he talks with pride and passion about his working life.”

There was a special recognition award for John Cessford, who recently retired from ForFarmers and who for many years organised the annual conference on behalf of BFREPA. The chairman of BFREPA, James Baxter, who presented the award, said, “John worked hand in hand with BFREPA over many years to deliver what is now the largest conference for egg producers in the UK. John brought his skill and expertise to make the event more professional and there is no doubt [that] without the support, sponsorship and resources put in by the ForFarmers team, the BFREPA conference would not be the success it is today. We owe a great debt of thanks to John, personally, for his commitment and dedication to BFREPA and his enthusiasm and passion for the whole poultry industry.” 

The BFREPA awards are the leading free range awards in the UK, recognising the best of British free range each year.

The Retailer of the Year Award for 2017 went to German discounter Aldi, which has expanded enormously since entering the UK market. Aldi was nominated by LJ Fairburn & Son and by Robert Thompson of TPak Ltd. The Fairburn citation read, “There are many but the biggest factors are: Excellent to deal with as suppliers. Sustainability is key for them and they want direct relationships with farmers to ensure they can grow along with them – they look at the long term not short term so farmers can have confidence to invest. Sustainable pricing for quality goods. They care about suppliers and are very collaborative.” Robert Thompson said, “By far the best promoters of both Scottish and UK produce, they are excellent.”

The Marketing Initiative of the Year award went to Noble Foods for its ‘Chain of Happiness’ campaign to promote its happy egg free range brand. The campaign launched with a new TV advert in October 2016, which has continued throughout 2017 alongside social/digital, in store and PR support. Total investment over one year has been more than £5 million.

This year’s egg quality award was won by Richard and Andrew Higgins. David Harris of C & G Stephenson was second. Jamie Bradley was third.