Chickens, Farmers & Partners

By Tom Piper

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Recently, chickens have been in the news, and not always for great reasons, such as with bird flu and the attention inhumane practices have received after California passed Proposition 2, forbidding the use of battery cages for producing eggs.

Another news story about chickens that we’ve noticed is about farmers who work under contract for big meat poultry companies. The arrangement works like this: the farmer owns the land, structures and equipment. The poultry company sends them chickens and the feed necessary to raise them. The problem comes when the company continually demands that they modify their facilities in various expensive ways, but do not support that with higher payments to the farmers. Furthermore, they apply a “tournament system” whereby if your birds don’t grow as fat on the same feed as a neighboring contract farm, your payments will be cut and you can even be terminated as a contractor with little notice. Finally, if a farmer requests a change to their facility to improve the quality of life for the birds, they will often be told no and can be subject to additional sanctions, inspections, or pay cuts. This is a fairly ruthless, but still quite common, course of business in the industry.

Nellie’s Free Range Eggs also works with independent, small family farms to produce our eggs. But there are some very significant differences with how we do business with our farmer partners.

First of all, our farmers are partners, in every sense of the word. They are offered guaranteed prices to follow the strict guidelines for Certified Humane farming.

Second, we do not use a tournament system to constantly weed out our less efficient farmers. Instead we sign long-term contracts and do not penalize them for production issues that are not in their control, and will instead lend them a hand. We send our farm technicians to their homes to help them with issues that affect production like lighting, airflow, and temperature in the barn. We never pressure them to increase production by doing something that impairs the welfare of the hens, or the family that tends to them.

Third, instead of cutting corners, we continually work to improve conditions, such as our recent accomplishment of getting 100% of our farm partners on a Certified Humane Free Range standard. This is the opposite of the approach some of these other companies take. We are a Certified B-Corp, which means that we seek to meet a triple bottom line of financial, social welfare and environmental standards.

In the past decade of farming under our current partnership system, we have never terminated a farmer for poor financial performance and we have never had a farmer sue us, or leave us because they were unhappy with the partnership. That’s something we’re very proud of.

Comments

Adam kridlerMay 22, 2019

I have a 100 hen flock but I’m wanting to increase the size of my flock and business. I would love to sign on with you guys please let me know if you are interested im in north west Missouri

Nellie's

Thanks for your interest, Adam! At the moment, we’re unfortunately not looking for partner farmers in your particular area, but we invite you to check back from time to time for updates as they become available and we wish you the best of luck on your farming adventures!

Chris LumpkinApril 13, 2019

I have about 1000 laying hen On Pasture Free Range. I was wondering would you guys contract to buy my eggs. Or would i have to raise you chickens? And also im in the SW Florida area.

Nellie's

Hi Chris! Thanks for reaching out to us. It sounds like you might be interested in finding out more about becoming a partner farmer? We'd be glad to get your information to a member of our team if you would be interested in sending us an email at: [email protected] Thanks!

Jonathan Hinkle March 14, 2019

I live about 60 miles south of OKC, I’m interested in starting some laying houses along with a few of my church friends and family! Don’t know if y’all have a need for them in my area but if so please contact me thanks.

Nellie's

Hi Jonathan, we aren't looking for new partners in your area at this time unfortunately, but we'll pass your kind message along to our farm operations team and have them reach out if our needs change in the future.

Brad CaudleFebruary 16, 2019

Hello, I have been looking around at becoming an egg producer. Was wondering how your operation works and if you have any plans in Missouri.

Nellie's

Hi Brad, do you mind sending us an email at [email protected]? We're not looking for partner farmers in Missouri at the moment, but we'd love to get your contact information in case our plans change in the future.

Debbie February 10, 2019

I am interested in becoming a free range Poultry farmer I am interesting information what all is involved I have bromine ordinary poultry houses for over 25 years

Nellie's

Hi Debbie, do you mind sending us an email at [email protected] with your location? We aren't looking for partner farmers in all states, but there might be some availability in your area. Hope to hear from you soon!

Don BrowerDecember 28, 2018

I would be interested in becoming a producer we currently have about 500 free range chickens

Nellie's

Hi Don! Thanks for reaching out! We'd be glad to chat with you. Would you mind sending us an email to: [email protected] ? Thanks for reaching out!