Producer of the Month: L J Fairburn & Son
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
In LJ Fairburn & Son’s case it was the chicken! Fairburn's started farming in Alford, Lincolnshire in 1951 with just 150 chickens which Grandfather, Leslie James Fairburn bought for £150. Having supplied their eggs to supermarkets through a major brand for many years, the business began to struggle and, when faced with a ‘do or die’ situation, they made the decision to go it alone and start supplying the supermarkets directly. By doing so the business has gone from strength to strength and in just six years the dedicated team has turned around the company to become the UK’s largest independent, family-owned egg producer & packer, supplying 18m British Lion-approved eggs each week.
Now headed up by third-generation Daniel Fairburn, his wife Sarah Louise and sisters Caroline and Sarah, the young team has invested heavily in land, technology, equipment and livestock, and quickly built personal relationships with leading retailers. Having secured contracts to supply most of the major supermarkets and built their own 40-strong network of producers, they’re also developing their own innovative product ranges to bring new taste experiences to customers, including the British Blue® Egg, already on sale as a retailer own-brand product in Aldi and Sainsbury’s and which is about to go on sale under the Fairburn’s brand in 13 Lincolnshire Co-op stores. They are laid by 100% British origin hens that are hatched, hand-reared and housed in higher welfare, free-range sheds on Fairburn’s own farms. A unique feed milled in-house and mixed with brightly coloured flowers gives the eggs their rich taste and vibrant golden yolk.
Why do you do what you do?
We’ve been farming for over 60 years and it’s in our blood, there’s nothing we’d rather do. We’re proudly British and independent, and with all of us having young families, the commitment to re-invest in the business to ensure it continues successfully for future Fairburn’s generations is our number one focus. Whilst the business has changed over the years and things have naturally evolved, a commitment to our family values, loyalty and business integrity on which Fairburn’s was originally built has remained central. The family motto is ‘Don’t ask anyone to do anything that you would not be prepared to do yourself.’ Grandad Fairburn had a second one too, ‘Always feed the chickens before yourself’!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
We’re a young and progressive family business, and take a very hands-on approach. I think what I love the most is that we’re still proudly family-owned and run. We see so many businesses getting snapped up by bigger conglomerates but we are fiercely protective of our independence and family values. It means we are in control of everything we put in and every egg we send out, from day old chick to eggs sitting in the fridge. Having this control over the type of grain grown, how the feeds are mixed, breeding our own hens and even down to developing our own branding and packaging, ensures the freshest eggs of the finest quality.
What do you enjoy least about your job?
Long days and sometimes nights have given us more than a few grey hairs, especially when we decided to go it alone. Thank goodness we had lovely grandparents that could step in and help with the childcare, otherwise I don’t know how we’d have coped! There’s no ‘norm’ in this job, every day is different and you need to be on call at all times, you can’t shut up shop or turn off your computer at 5.30 and go home and forget about things until the morning.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Most definitely taking back control of our business and being able to call the shots again. We were in an extremely worrying position six years ago and were so close to having to sell up but we took a leap of faith and the hard work and determination of our entire team, and a firm believe in what we wanted to achieve, has got us to where we are now.
Why should we buy British produce?
It might seem obvious that British people would want to buy British food, but that’s not always the case, although fortunately eggs are one example where we produce far more of our own than we import. Buying British boosts the economy, and if you can buy local and British this helps to boost farmers on your own doorstep and lower your carbon footprint too. There’s something really satisfying knowing that the food you pick up from the supermarket shelves has been produced in the area you live and it helps connect us to the food we’re eating and get a better understanding of the farm to fork journey.
How do you think we should be promoting British?
As a family business, we think spreading the word through schools is good starting point. Fair Trade has caught the attention of education experts and Fair Trade Fortnight is popular on the school agenda, but we need the same focus on British food. So many children see food on the shelves and their plates but don’t understand its journey and that’s a big shame! We work with several schools in our area, visiting children to talk about what we do and we host visits to the farm so that children can get hands-on and see the whole chick to egg-in-box process for themselves.
If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
British Eggs – a cracking way to start the day!
What’s on the menu this evening?
Something from the recipe library on our website hopefully! We work with celebrity Lincolnshire-chef and local food campaigner, Rachel Green, and there’s plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes so we’re never lost for something to eat.
How can people get hold of your produce?
We supply eggs to most of the major supermarkets under their own labels but you can also buy our Fairburn’s Free Range Eggs at Costco stores nationwide and throughout Lincolnshire in the Cooperative, ASDA and a number of independent stores.We also work in partnership with Shropshire-based Heal’s Farm to produce eggs sold across Asda stores in the region.
Twitter is @FairburnsEggs
Insta is @fairburns_eggs
Pinterest is FairburnsEggs1
British Food Fortnight is #BuyBritishEggs