This GCSE coursework is about setting up a free-range egg unit in the Retford area.The aim of this project is to establish if it is feasible and cost effective to start up such a business and identify a suitable market for the product; taking into conside

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This GCSE coursework is about setting up a free-range egg unit in the Retford area.  Free-range eggs are produced by hens that have access to nesting areas, scratching areas and outdoor exercise areas giving them opportunity to express their natural behaviour and instincts, by foraging for plants and insects etc.  

The aim of this project is to establish if it is feasible and cost effective to start up such a business and identify a suitable market for the product; taking into consideration legal requirements for animal welfare.

In order to complete this project I will need to research the following areas:-

  • Cost of suitable agricultural land in Retford; establishing if it would be best to rent or purchase.
  • Type of housing including fixtures and fittings for egg laying, perching, egg collection and automated feeding system for the hens; including costs and planning limitations.
  • Market research of the product and its future, including public perceptions, supply and demand.
  • Existing and future legislative changes regarding egg production

In order to investigate the above area I will use a variety of both primary and secondary research methods.  

I will research the cost of land in Retford by contacting local land agents and by making reference to the John Nix Farm Management Pocketbook in order to establish current values.

I will research suitable hen housing costs etc using the internet especially the British Free-Range Egg Producers Association website.  I will identify and contact suppliers by phone to establish set up and maintenance costs. I will also contact the local council to find out about planning requirements and limitations.

I will gather information about public perception etc by designing and using a questionnaire; reporting my findings accordingly.

I will find out about the existing and future legislative requirements for egg production from the internet including the British Free-Range Egg Producers Association website.

Identifying a Gap in the Market

My business idea is to establish a free-range egg producing unit which will meet the R.S.P.C.As freedom food standards and supply eggs direct to a wholesale packing company.  By selling them directly to a packing company it reduces the requirement for specialist grading systems and extra labour.  

The majority of egg producers in and around the Retford area currently produce eggs from caged birds.  In the European Union (E.U) battery cages will be banned from 2012.  The 1999 E.U. hens directive allows ‘enriched’ cages.  These cages must be at 45cm high and give a minimum of 750 cm² per bird, 150cm² being used for a nest box, the rest is usable space.  It must include perches, litter and claw shortening devices.  Some countries have already banned battery cages, e.g. Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Germany has even banned ‘enriched’ cages by 2012.  Most of the current egg producers around Retford do not comply with their existing caged systems.  Bearing this in mind, establishing a free-range poultry unit early on should allow me to enter a growing market.  

Carrying out a questionnaire survey may also show that as people become more aware of how their food is produced and of animal welfare issues, there will be growth in the free-range egg sector.  The British Free Range Egg Producers Association currently estimates that free-range egg production could reach 50-55% of the U.K. egg market by 2011. Current production stands at approximately 36%.  

The current throughput of eggs in packing stations (target outsource) is 6.1 million case.  (1 case is 360 eggs).  Therefore the current free-range egg production figure is (36% x 6.1 x 360) approximately 790million.  The estimated free-range egg production figure for 2011 is (55% x 6.1 x 360) approximately 1207million.  Therefore the estimated free-range eggs produced will increase by 417million.   This shows that free-range egg production is a growth area.

Market Research

Market research is important to establish if a business proposition is viable.  It is a good way to find out vital information about competitors and customers’ needs.  It allows businesses to research potential markets, identifying where the products are most likely to sell.  In the case of this whether eggs would be best sold directly to a packer processor, farmer’s market or direct to local shops, supermarkets or farm gate sales.  It also allows you to identify competitors and any potential barriers to the proposed business.  

Primary research will provide valuable ‘first hand’ information that will be current and up to date.  I will gather primary data by using a questionnaire and by conducting interviews.  I will design my questionnaire to include a variety of question types.  I will use both open and closed questions.  Closed questions will provide me with data that can be easily quantified.   I will use few open questions because they would gather more qualitative data which will be more difficult and time consuming to analyse statistically.  I will use a Likert scale to gather public opinions in a format that is easy to analyse.  I will also interview a farmer who has recently set up a free-range egg unit.  I will use a semi-structured interview technique.  This will let me ask pre-determined questions to gather information I need at the same time it will allow me to ask follow up questions in response to the answers given.  I plan to ask questions about how the business was set up, stocking rates and setup costs etc.  I will also contact suppliers by telephone to find current prices for suitable hen housings etc that comply with emerging legislation requirement.  I will also phone the local council to find out about planning requirements and restrictions.  Speaking to individuals by phone means that I will be speaking to the most relevant people in the council within the planning department.

Secondary research, by using books, journals, internet, government statistics etc. is good for supporting ideas with factual information.  However secondary research data needs to be checked carefully for reliability and currency.  Websites used as a source of information should be reliable e.g. .gov sites.  

I will use the current up to date edition of the John Nix Farm Management Pocketbook.  This book is most relevant because it is intended for use by farmers and advisors, hunting for data relating to farm management.  

Farmer Semi-structured Phone Interview

Preset Questions Asked  (Responses and Follow up questions (in Green)

  1. Are you a free-range egg producer and if so how long has your free-range egg production business been running?

Yes.  18months

  1. What is the land to bird ratio required for free-range hens?

2000 birds per hectare

  1. What type of building do you house the hens in?

Polly tunnel framework on skids.  

What does this mean? 

That it’s portable.  

What are the benefits of this? 

Less planning regulations, easily moved

  1. What start up costs did you incur?

Building, equipment, fencing and point of lay birds.  

What does point of lay mean? 

Someone else rears them from one day old to the age at which they start laying.

Why do you not rear them yourself? 

Too labour intensive and requires expensive specialist equipment.  

  1. What type of running costs are there?

Electricity, water, feed and labour

  1. What is the labour requirement?

40 hours per month per 1000 birds

  1. Who purchases your eggs?

All eggs produced are sold on contract to a packing company.  

Why not pack them yourselves?  

Insufficient labour on the farm and would require expensive grading equipment.  

Analysis of findings from Farmer Telephone Interview

I interviewed a farmer, Mr David Busby of Church Farm, Martin Dales, Woodhall Spa.  Lincs.  I was unable to interview a farmer in the Retford area because I could not find a free-range egg producer.  I used the local business phone directory and called up egg farmers in the area but none of them contacted were free-range egg producers.  I therefore asked my father if he knew a free-range egg producer who I could contact. He didn’t know of any but put me in touch with a farmer friend of his who passed me onto someone he knows.

Mr Busby is a primary producer, sole trader who owns his own farm.  The information he supplied to me be is current and relevant since he established his egg production business only 18months ago.  He informed me that his land to bird ratio is 2000 birds per hectare.  When I checked on the internet I was able to confirm that this was the minimum recommended by the R.S.P.C.A freedom food regulations.  

I was able to establish that a portable building may be the best option when considering planning requirements.  I therefore contacted the local council planning department by phone and they did confirm that it is not just easier but also much quicker to get permission for a temporary agricultural building to be erected rather than a permanent one.  This information prompted me to research into temporary poly tunnel skid buildings.  I found a suitable supplier on the internet which can be found at the web address:  

I was able to identify the type of start up and running costs that I need to consider when setting up such a business.  Buying in point of lay hens means that I would have an immediate return for investment which is important for cash flow. Selling eggs on contract will avoid additional setup costs, for expensive grading equipment, which would keep my financial borrowing to a minimum and make the business more attractive to potential investors.  However I may get more money per egg selling to shops or direct to customers.  I will need to investigate if this increase income would cover the outlay for the grading machine.

I would be able to set up a business with 4000 birds without the need to employ anyone else based on the information given. 40hrs/month/1000 birds would equate to 160hours/month for 4000 birds. This equates to about 6hours a day.  This therefore means that I would need 2 hectares (5 acres) of land to either purchase or rent.

Consumer Questionnaire

I am undertaking a small scale investigation to establish opinions about free-range egg production.  I would be grateful if you would spend a few minutes to complete this questionnaire in order to assist in my research for my business course coursework. Thank you.

Please check the appropriate responses to the following:-

  1. Gender:        Male ▢        Female ▢

  1. Age:                16-25 ▢  26-35 ▢          36-45 ▢  46-55 ▢  56-65 ▢  65+ ▢        

  1. What sort of eggs do you currently normally purchase?                

Free range ▢        Barn ▢        Battery ▢        Don’t know ▢

  1. Battery hens are kept in cages, stacked in tiers with very little room for movement, no natural light and with no opportunity to venture outdoors or express their natural behaviour.  

Please respond in the table below to the statement that best represents your views.       Key:  SA= strongly agree;  A= agree;  N= neutral;  D= disagree;  SD= strongly disagree

  1. Battery cages will be banned in the European Union by 2012.  A system called ‘enriched’ cages will be introduced.  Enriched cages will give a bird more space but the hens will still only be subject to artificial light and still remain indoors throughout their whole life.  

In your opinion is this system more welfare friendly?

Yes ▢        No ▢      Not concerned ▢

  1. A free-range system gives the hen the option of going inside for shelter, nesting and perching.  The hen can go outside during the daytime and is free to express its natural behaviours.        

Please  respond in the table below to the statement that best represents your views.       Key:  SA= strongly agree;  A= agree;  N= neutral;  D= disagree;  SD= strongly disagree

  1. How much more would you  pay for free-range eggs per dozen?

0p ▢    1- 20p ▢  21-40p ▢   41-60p ▢  61-80p ▢   81-100p ▢  £1+ ▢

  1. Where do you currently buy eggs from?

Direct from a farm ▢

Farmers market ▢  

Local shop ▢

Supermarket ▢

Other: (please specify) __________________________________________

  1. Would you prefer to purchase locally produce free-range eggs rather than eggs that have been transported from miles away?

Yes ▢    No ▢

  1.  Please write below any other relevant comment about your views on free-range egg production.


Thank you for taking time to complete this questionnaire.

Consumer Questionnaire Analysis

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Table of results:

I produced a table of results using a spreadsheet because this made it easier for me to produce graphs from the data I collected.  I asked twenty people to complete the questionnaire and the raw data results can be seen in my table above.

Twelve females completed the questionnaire and eight males.  Representatives from all age groups were captures.  Therefore there is a relative good spread of respondents.  This means that my results are ...

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