Eggs from the Woodlands

by Ann van Engelen

The hens on Woodland’s free range farms are free to wander in the pastures under the canopy of trees that protect them from birds of prey and the elements, as well as giving them a healthy environment for happy lives.

Woodland recently launched New Zealand’s first free range eggs that bear individual stamps of origin.

“For me, being involved with free range hens daily brings with it a new challenge and I am always learning. There is a real art to managing free range hens, and once one obstacle is overcome, they throw something new at you which is always interesting,” says South Island farm manager Nina Winmall.

“Glenpark, our first Woodland free range farm has been in operation for more than 15 years. As a company and an industry, we are making some real advances and it is very exciting to be a part of that. “I am a third generation poultry farmer and as a little girl who absolutely adored her old man, I spent as much time out on the farm as I could with him. Apart from some time spent travelling I have pretty much always been involved in the industry in one way or another.” Nina says the stock team often talk about the hens that follow them around the house when they are doing their checks. They also have a real pecking order and it is very interesting watching them interact.

Hens at woodlands farms live in ahealthy free range environment

“The hens all have their own personalities and there are always one or two characters that no matter how many times you put them back over the fence with their flock, the next day they are out again.” Inside the houses the hens always have access to fresh feed and water.

“We work with nutritionists to provide a balanced diet to meet the hens’ nutritional requirements. Our feed is made here in the South Island by our sister company, MainFeeds.”

These mixes are a blend of locally grown wheat and barley, plant proteins and essential vitamins and minerals.

Outside on the range the hens forage, scratching around for worms and bugs enjoying their natural behaviour.

The ideal weather for a hen out on the range is an overcast misty day.

A lot of people presume that the hens would prefer a clear sunny day but they are always fearful of attack from above so feel a lot more comfortable under clouds. This is also why trees and shelter are so important.

“Our own hens are reared at our dedicated free range rearing farm. As with all livestock for production, rearing is a very important part of the chain — it is essential we do this part ourselves so the hens arrive at our laying farms in the best condition.”

The hens are set up for laying and prepared for their new environment at the laying farm. “When consumers buy Woodland eggs they can be 100 per cent sure they are authentic free range.

The social birds interact with each other and all have their 
own unique personalities

Every egg will be stamped and have the Woodland tree symbol and a code — this can be used on Woodland’s website to show where each egg was laid,” says Michael Guthrie, managing director of Mainland Poultry Limited.

“As New Zealand’s leading producer of free range eggs, we were naturally very concerned about recent allegations that a small number of cage eggs may have been marketed as being free range.

“This compelled us to fast-track our plans to guarantee the provenance of our eggs by providing complete traceability from the farm to the consumer’s kitchen.

“At all the farms, the eggs are collected daily to ensure freshness. 

We stamp each egg at the barn where we collect them, so there can be no question that it is, in fact, a genuine Woodland free range egg.” 

The technology was developed in the Netherlands by Nuovo. It uses safe food grade ink, so the egg is completely unaffected by the stamping process.

Maurik Wouters, owner of Nuovo says egg stamping for traceability is already regulation in the EU as part of the European standard and has been in effect since 2012. Woodland is the first brand to implement this in New Zealand and they now operate to the world standard for traceability.

“It is a matter of principle for us to give our customers 100 per cent confidence that our eggs are genuinely free range,” Michael says. 

“The demand for free range eggs is growing strongly, and as the recent outcry has shown, consumers want to be assured that they get the genuine product.”