The Kuhl Corporation was founded in 1909 by Paul H. Kuhl. As this third generation business enters it centennial year Egg Industry considered this an opportune time to review the scope of the company and to share the experiences and vision of Henry Kuhl, son of the founder. The company is structured as a partnership with Henry and his brother Paul R. Kuhl as principal shareholders.
The third generation comprises Rick (CFO), Kevin (CEO) and Jeff (COO). Some of their family members have already started part-time employment while studying, representing the fourth generation of Kuhl participation.
Egg Industry: Please review the history of your company and your personal involvement.
Henry Kuhl: Kuhl Corporation is a family business currently in its third generation. My father Paul H. Kuhl established the company to supply the burgeoning poultry industry in the Northeast. Although we still retain many of these products in our Poultry Division including laying nests, egg trays, Peeco vacuum egg lift systems and small incubators our Machinery Division specializes in commercial washing, hatchery automation and related equipment for the baking and red meat industries.
I started with the company while still in school and continued working there through my university training, graduating with a degree in business administration. Soon after joining the company I recognized that the industry needed improved egg trays and egg washers.
EI: How did you address the demand for new products?
HK: My brother Paul R. Kuhl who is still active in the business with me, helped develop the first U.S. plastic egg trays. The range has been extended to egg transportation cases, pallets, divider boards, leg bands, waterers, chicken feeders and other specialty items. I was directly involved in developing the non-immersion egg washer which could handle 6,000 eggs per hour. Existing egg washers were virtually motorized garbage cans which simply spread contamination from batch to batch. We have successively increased capacity and are capable of providing installations of up to 500 cph.
EI: How has the industry received your egg washing equipment?
HK: Over the past 50 years we have achieved increasing penetration of both the U.S. domestic market especially among breakers and packers where yield is an important consideration and also in the export market. Although the EU disfavors egg washing we have sold all the washers in use in Sweden and we have sold installations into Russia, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Latin America in addition to our NAFTA neighbors, Mexico and Canada. The EU still maintains outdated regulations concerning egg washing. These are undergoing review based on the high prevalence rates of egg-borne salmonellosis in consumers attributed to shell contamination.
EI: How have you managed to market your egg washing equipment against competition from manufacturers of graders that supply integral units?
HK: Kuhl installations are robust and efficient achieving high throughput. Our brushes follow the form of eggs and cover a greater surface area of the shell compared to our competition. Spraying between the brushes provides lubrication to facilitate their cleaning action. We incorporate a patented method to remove soil from the ends of eggs. A significant advantage of Kuhl systems is that our brushes do not remove the cuticle of the shell. This has been demonstrated in trials conducted by universities in Sweden, Belgium and Scotland to make our equipment acceptable in the EU. With appropriate sanitizers we can remove over 99% of shell-borne bacterial contaminants including salmonella.
EI: How does Kuhl communicate with clients regarding both innovations and existing products?
HK: We consider the major exhibitions to be extremely important. We have been a strong supporter of the IPE and its predecessors for over 50 years and we regularly exhibit at the VIV shows. Although we have cut back on some of the regional exhibitions we still feel that it is important to show machines so that prospective clients can view our features and assess our quality. We always have a comprehensive range on display at the major shows including tray washers, pallet washers and hatchery automation equipment.
We are making available videos and DVDs of our equipment and we will also be upgrading our website. It is said that I will “go anywhere, any place to sell machines.” I have been active in the allied industry and attend the IEC and UEP meetings were I do my upmost to promote the industry and to interact with clients and friends.
EI: What future developments do you envisage for Kuhl?
HK: We will continue to expand in both the domestic and foreign markets. Currently about half our business is export and we have received a number of awards including the Presidential E. We are extremely interested in countries with developing poultry industries and we can supply equipment for a variety of needs as the size of operations increases. One of our strengths is that we are extremely flexible and our design and manufacturing capability allow us to customize equipment to suit special applications and plant layouts in packing and processing plants.
We can adapt in-feeds to suit various breakers and plant layouts selected by our clients. We are continually evaluating the market to identify needs and develop solutions. We strongly believe in the principle that “If Kuhl makes it, it works.”
EI: How do you view the trend towards consolidation in the egg industry?
HK: Consolidation is inevitable in a free enterprise industrial economy. Companies will merge and acquire to achieve economies of scale and efficiencies in cost. We will continue to be able to supply a range of clients from small family-operated farms to the largest complexes. We believe our combination of low maintenance, ease of cleaning and efficiency will continue to generate repeat business. Our research shows that 65% of our sales are based on reputation and the experience of our customers.
EI: Where do you see the U.S. egg industry in five years?
HK: We at Kuhl believe that for a developed nation, there should be as many hens as consumers. The U.S. has considerable advantages including the availability of grain, a good distribution infrastructure and relatively low costs. We foresee a gradual increase in demand based on the inherent nutritional advantages of eggs. The animal welfare movement is however slowing expansion and will inevitably drive up costs of production. It is hoped that the UEP and other groups will be able to successfully lobby against restrictive legislation since both consumers and poultry farmers will be harmed by unjustified restrictions on confined housing.
EI: Do you have any message for the egg industry?
HK: Everyone should promote eggs as the perfect meal. I eat two eggs every day and I’m in perfect health with a low cholesterol level. We have to intensify generic promotion to increase demand for eggs and derived products. The UEP, IEC, AEB and national Egg Boards are helping to achieve this goal.