Page 12 - April 2018
P. 12

After a good night’s sleep and egg laying, the Wilson’s happy hens are about to exit for greener pastures, thanks to Rachel.
Rachel and Ian Wilson are positive about their new branding, which includes colourful green and blue egg cartons made in Denmark.
CONTEMPLATING, as I was, the changing picture of pork pro- duction, in relation to branding, production systems and welfare awareness, drew me to reflect on time spent re- cently with egg produc- ers, the Wilson family of Munster, a suburb not far from me in ‘free range Freo’.
I was commissioned by Peter Bedwell and his Poultry Digest magazine to write a feature on the Wilsons and how they’ve evolved their farming practices to meet the mod- ern market.
Hence, I thought I’d share their story with you, thinking that some mes- sages might ring true for pork producers too and possibly even inspire some.
So, here we go, the fol- lowing from the Decem- ber 2017/January 2018 Poultry Digest.
Talk about the chicken
Cant Comment by BRENDON CANT
and the egg and what comes first.
While that can be a con- fusing argument, so can talk about free range and caged production.
With free range egg farms all the rage today and caged egg laying hens a little on the nose with welfare bod- ies, government agencies
and, arguably, a growing number of consumers, it’s no surprise that many com- mercial egg producers have opened up their sheds, let their hens have a green pick and then begun marketing their eggs as free range, subject to satisfying certain stocking density and other requirements.
Interestingly, fourth- generation egg produc- ers, the Wilson family at Munster, just south of Fremantle in Western Australia, have come the full circle, commencing in 1940 as free range, which continued until 1970, then setting up cages for their hens until in 2008 revert- ing to free range, which is where they are at today in 2018.
Legislated larger cage sizes around 2008, which resulted in greater expense for infrastructure, had a big influence on why the move to free range came about, along with a lower price for caged hen eggs.
Talk about twists and turns, but the Wilson fam- ily, now branding their eggs as Fremantle Egg Company, know what they’re doing and believe in serving up what keeps the customer satisfied, al- beit Ian, 60 this March, does harbour some res- ervations about what he describes as undue pres- sure from welfare groups on the egg and chicken industries.
“We’re proud of our free range production system, where our hens are se- curely and comfortably housed between 8.30pm, before being let free, so to speak, when our sheds open up at 10.30am after laying has finished, but we still feel that the animal welfare lobby has some- times spread its wings a little too far,” Ian said.
“Chickens are smart and we acknowledge and know that from their natu- ral behaviours, which in- clude choosing not to exit their sheds on days of par- ticularly nasty weather or to seek the shelter of a tree in the open grass pasture paddocks when predators are overhead, but I’m not convinced they’re sentient beings, as some welfare lobbyists and even some academics in that space would have us believe.”
Fremantle Egg Compa- ny produces about 12,000 eggs a day from their 14,000 Hyline Brown hens, which lay for about 70 weeks, before being turned over, many going to comfortable backyard homes to enjoy ‘semi-re- tirement’.
Eggs are packed on site after leaving the two main sheds on conveyors and then distributed, aside from farm door sales, which are substantial, to about 40 Fremantle cafes, restaurants and food ser- vice companies.
The aim is also to get established in IGA fran- chises and the Wilsons believe the Fremantle Egg Company branding will help push that along.
Ian’s 25-year-old daughter Rachel, who has worked in the fam- ily business for two years, following stints with the Fremantle Dockers and American Chamber of Commerce, after gradu- ating from University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Arts, major- ing in communications, has been a driver behind the new branding, which includes colourful green and blue boxes and livery on their delivery truck.
The new graphics and logo were designed by a New Zealand company: “The Kiwis just do mar- keting and branding so well,” Rachel said.
Auditing, something that
is done annually by Egg Standards of Australia at free range farms such as the Wilson’s, requires all eggs to be individually stamped (Bodalla Hold- ings, so BH is the stamp) and detailed records to be kept.
Stocking density, a sometimes-controversial measurement of welfare when it comes to poul- try for meat or egg pro- duction, is something the Wilsons take very seri- ously, proudly and boldly proclaiming on their 12-packs that “our hens are free to roam, at 10,000 birds per hectare.”
Wilsons Poultry, now Fremantle Egg Company, was, effectively, started al- most 80 years ago on 40ha by Ian’s grandparents, Irish immigrants Andrew and Ethel Wilson, before his parents Victor (dec) and Alma took over.
Alma still lives on the farm and helps occasion- ally with door sales.
Now occupying only 5ha, with the original po- tatoes and cows long gone, the property and business employs Ian, his daugh- ter Rachel and his two brothers Brian and Lance full time, plus Lance’s two daughters Brianna and Hayley and Brian’s wife Sophie part time, along with two other part-time employees.
“With a modern feeding, watering, laying and egg moving system in place, labour requirements are not what they once were and we handle our produc- tion, marketing and sales quite well with this num- ber of staff,” Ian said.
A recent substantial in- vestment in a new 400sq m shed, which includes a 50sq m refrigerated room for egg storage and handling and a similar space as a retail shopfront, Fremantle Egg Company, which has a very substan- tial farm-gate clientele, is investing in a new look with a tried and proven product.
As Rachel explained, “Our much-loved chick- ens keep doing their thing, laying lovely nutritious free range eggs, which we believe are an important dietary source for today’s Australian families, so our family wants to do the right thing by them by presenting what’s really their product in the best possible way.”
“We just love the busi- ness of producing quality, safe, nutritious, free range eggs from well cared for, happy chickens.
“It’s as simple as that and we’re proud of the fact that our family has played its role over many decades in keeping egg production very much alive and well here in WA,” she said.
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Page 12 – Australian Pork Newspaper, March 2018
Fremantle Egg Company recently added a new 400sq m shed, which includes a 50sq m refrigerated room for egg storage and handling and a similar space as a retail shopfront.

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