We are St Ewe Free Range Eggs, a multi-award winning free-range egg producer and packer hailing from Cornwall in the Southwest of England.
We have been farming for over 40 years. With family values at our heart and nutrition at our core, we have wholeheartedly dedicated ourselves to producing an egg for everybody, by developing unique brands, being mindful of our impact on the environment and always making sure our hens’ welfare comes first!
Reflections from our CEO Bex Tonks…
1967 My grandparents bought Ventonwyn- meaning ‘Pure Spring’ in Cornish!
Grandpa was a Captain in the Royal Navy and taught History at Dartmouth and continued to work at the College for several years, whilst my grandmother Wendy and father Richard started work on the farm, doing up the barns and resurrecting the farmhouse.
My father started the dairy farm with his first Jersey cow called Sylvia and gradually built up the herd being very careful about the breeding and nutritional balance, to ensure the girls produced the very best award-winning milk.
1971 My parents met when my mother came to ask for a job on the farm after finishing her studies at agricultural college
1975 My parents got married
1976 I arrived
1978 My sister Jemima arrived
1981 My brother Henry arrived
With a 70 strong herd and three children to contend with, my parents were in full swing and renting extra land to accommodate an ever-increasing number of heifers.
The 1980s saw the milk quota come into play which was very expensive. This is when my father decided that all the hours dairy farming required in exchange for the return was very small and therefore looked into keeping poultry.
1982 After my father built the first hen house and our first 1500 free-range flock of hens arrived and they were lovely! With a steep learning curve, everyone settled in a routine and the hens were very productive, so much so the next flock was considered and it all went from there!
1991 We now had three free-range hen houses holding about 10,000 birds.
1993 I moved away and started in the pub trade with my first husband.
2002 A Penrith farmer who sadly lost all of his Jerseys to foot and mouth looked at our heifers and offered to buy the entire herd after advertising a few of ours in Farmers Weekly. It didn’t take my father long to realise that selling the herd was a good move. After that, we contract reared the neighbouring farmer’s heifers for a few years.
2003 The old cowshed and dairy were adapted to rear our own chicks, supplying the three hen houses in rotation.
2004 I moved back to the farm with my family and we built our 4th hen house, pushing our flock to 14,000 to be able to support two families. Having had a wonderful childhood on the farm, I knew this is where I wanted my children to grow up.
2006-7 We set about building our own packing centre and put in a seven-lane Moba Grader and handed in our 12 months notice with Noble Foods.
St Ewe Free Range Eggs began after seeing a big demand for local produce. We approached Asda and Sainsbury’s who were the first two supermarkets to take our eggs under the newly formed St Ewe Free Range Eggs brand.
A couple of years later we started supplying Tesco’s which really put pressure on our little grader and our backs, so it was time for an upgrade!
2009 We took on our first free-range egg producer farm.
2010 My parents went to France to look at a 9 lane Stallkat grader. We realised that the cowshed next door was the only place we could put it. So, we finished contract rearing and set about upgrading the building to accommodate the new grader.
2012 The Stallkat was installed, we were up and running with plenty of capacity, it was time to increase sales and develop the St Ewe brand. It didn’t take us long before we started to run out of space again, so another shed went up!
2013 Rearing our own chicks was becoming a bit of a challenge with the packing centre taking a lot of our efforts, so we decided to stop.
2015 We began looking at ways to minimise our risk as a packer and pasteurising surplus egg seemed to be a good answer. So with an empty rearing shed, we started to adapt and built another building inside the shed to a high-risk food grade specification.
2016 We bought a second-hand pasteuriser from a retiring farmer in Spain, had it reconditioned and fitted, then began producing pasteurised liquid yolk, white and whole egg.
2017 Our very first hen house was decommissioned as it was a little too close to the packing centre and now the pasteuriser, so we turned it into yet another packaging shed!
2018 The second (backup) Stallkat grader arrived and was fitted into the barn my sister had her wedding reception in. This is the year we took on an Operations Manager, Packing Centre Supervisor and introduced a better Quality Assurance Policy.
2019 We became a Limited Company, with over 200,000 birds on our books being supplied by ourselves and 16 other free-range family farmers across the South West. Now supplying “the big four” supermarkets with retail at 50% of our business, 40% in foodservice and 10% export and white label.
2020 A year we will all remember!
In the blink of an eye, Covid-19 transformed the world and tested each and every one of us. The resilience and comradery of so many across industries was something that will forever be ingrained in our memories.
The market shifted overnight and we had to adapt at lightning speed to keep up with the unprecedented demand for retail eggs as the nation locked down and stayed at home.
Super Eggs were launched ahead of time to deliver a highly nutritious egg to the more health-focused consumer right when immune system support was needed most.
2021 As the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic relentlessly rumbled on, the third national lockdown brought with it one of the biggest challenges St Ewe had faced in its history, as the doors of the hospitality industry closed, along with it half of our business.
The Shell Out 2 Help Out (#SO2HO) campaign was launched at the beginning of the year as a way for us to avoid as much food waste as possible and support the circa. 30,000 or 1 in 4 children in Cornwall who could be defined as suffering from food insecurity. The campaign saw us donate over 250,000 eggs to those in need and as our ongoing pledge and commitment to the cause, we will be donating 1 egg for every dozen sold across our entire retail range to food charities.
2021 has also been a year of awards seeing Super Eggs scoop 4 awards including – Winner of the Healthy Boost category in the Great British Food awards; Silver for High Protein and Sports Nutrition in the national Nourish awards, Gold in the Taste of the West awards and Innovation of The Year in the National Egg and Poultry awards.
With the help of government funding and local grants, work has now begun on the new purpose-built 50,000 sq ft packing centre as we have outgrown our little Ventonwyn home farm. The new site will increase the packing capacity 10 fold and allow for increased scope for innovation, introducing new products and making the business as sustainable as possible.
We cannot help but feel the prevailing sense of pride in the achievements of the team, our producers and suppliers and look forward to 2022 with great excitement and open-minded optimism.