The winners of this year’s BFREPA Free Range Awards have been revealed, celebrating excellence and rewarding the best and brightest within the sector.

Twelve individuals and businesses have been recognised for making positive and sustained contributions to the free-range egg sector.

See also: Standout retail price inflation for eggs

James Baxter, Chairman of BFREPA, said: “It was a pleasure to judge the awards, especially after such a challenging 12 months for our industry.

“It is fantastic to honour and recognise the individuals and businesses that have gone above and beyond for the sector with their passion and dedication.

“We are extremely proud of each and every winner.”

Producer of the year

With comedian Al Murray – the pub landlord – leading the presentation ceremony, Producer of the Year in the under 20,000 birds category was announced as Bethany Irwin of Willowfields Farm from Griston, Norfolk.

Despite not coming from a farming background, Bethany has been involved in free-range eggs since she was 18 and is now successfully managing her own flocks of organic free-range laying hens, producing 383 eggs per hen housed.

William Maughan of J.E. Maughan & Sons from Darlington, County Durham, won the Producer of the Year award in the 20,000-47,000 birds category.

William has been producing free-range eggs for 24 years and has an impressive track record of forward-thinking initiatives and a proactive approach towards sustainability and efficiency.

In the over 47,000 birds category, Michael Arbuckle of Arbuckle Poultry from Dundee, Angus, took home the top prize.

Michael has been producing free-range eggs since 2012 and has “an unwavering dedication to enhancing both bird welfare and performance, as well as a proactive approach and openness to innovative strategies for optimising operations”.

Marketing and food business award

The Local Food Business of the Year award was given to Harper Farm Café. The local family farm and coffee shop based in New Farnley in Leeds serves speciality coffee and handmade cakes, as well as selling free-range eggs fresh from the farm.

The award for Marketing Initiative of the Year went to the Great Cornish Egg & Spoon Race.

The race, set up by St Ewe Free Range Eggs, had two teams race 300 miles across the Cornish coast, raising thousands of pounds for two charities, Hospitality Action and Cornwall Air Ambulance.

The Breakthrough of the Year award was won by the Prinzen Meggsius Select, a system for automatic egg inspection and sorting, with every individual egg being inspected on exterior indicators such as quality and dimensions.
Herefordshire-based free-range egg producer Joe Orgee won the Environmental Sustainability award.

Based at Upper Moorend Farm in Herefordshire, Joe radically improved how his farm interacts with the local environment with a series of densely planted pools to help improve water quality.

Special recognition

The Special Award for Services to the British Free Range Egg Sector was awarded posthumously to Charlie Stephenson, who sadly passed away earlier this year aged 60.

The Yorkshire-born free range egg producer was a long-standing and valued BFREPA council member who played a crucial role in the first BFREPA Conference.

He was also a staunch founding supporter of the organisation’s costings model and a valuable member of the Steering Committee.

Stephen Marriott and Colin Gravatt were jointly awarded the Lifetime Achievement award.

Both work for Wynnstay Humphrey Feed and Pullets and between them have nearly 100 years of experience of working in the poultry sector.

Ioan Humphreys was named Free Range Champion. Ioan took the internet by storm with his social media videos which provide an honest and open account of the realities of farming in Wales.

The Welsh farmer manages a 500-acre farm and has 32,000 hens.

The Employee of the Year award was won by Marie Yarrington who has been a farm worker for the Chilman family, who have produce free-range eggs in the Westcountry, for 13 years