Records were smashed at the 24th annual conference of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association held at the National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull, England. Exhibit space was sold out three weeks prior to the event, which attracted a best-ever attendance of 537 delegates all involved in free range egg production.

“The record number of delegates and exhibitors showed that the conference is now recognized as the major event of its type in the UK poultry industry,” commented John Cessford, marketing manager for ForFarmers who were responsible for organizing the conference and exhibition. The keen interest shown by all those attending the event reflected the strength and success of the industry.

The conference featured the strongest line-up of speakers in its 24 years’ history with papers presented by Jez Cooper of Freedom Food; Alan Wilkinson of HSBC; James Baxter, Farmers Weekly Poultry Farmer of the Year; and Adam Henson, BBC TV farming presenter and a Cotswold farmer in his own right.

The overall theme was “Sustainable Efficiency” which allowed the speakers to present a range of different perspectives on free range egg production, as well as emphasizing the success and strengths of the UK industry, with valuable advice on how to ensure production success and sustainability.

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Cooper took the opportunity to present the RSPCA’s Freedom Food consumer campaign and supported Adam Henson’s views on the need for branding and differentiation—factors that—he said were integral to the long-term success of the free range poultry business. Much attention was focused on a mini paper dealing with the highly relevant issue of Avian Influenza given by Scottish vet, Dr. Barry Thorp.

The program also hosted the annual BFREPA awards, sponsored by Elanco, with contributions by the BBC’s Alan Dedicote and Adam Henson. Winner of the prestigious “Lifetime Award” was Roger Lythe, Whixley, North Yorkshire, who worked for ForFarmers—then BOCM PAULS—for over 40 years as a feed specialist.

Commenting on his career, Lythe recalled that in the late 1980s and early 1990s flat-deck units housed between 2,000 and 4,000 birds and the eggs were hand-picked. “Now, start-up units have 16,000 to 32,000 birds on multiplier systems in fully controlled environments with on-farm egg packing,” he said. “One of the challenges remaining for the industry is to improve egg shell quality and to extend the laying period."