Traditional Norfolk Poultry targets arable farmers in expansion push

The country’s leading producer of free range chickens has chosen the Cereals event in
Cambridgeshire this week to launch its latest project to offer arable farmers a new opportunity for
diversification.
“There is an increasing demand for our high-welfare poultry and we are looking to work with
farmers across East Anglia to expand our production,” said Mark Gorton, co-founder and joint
managing director of Traditional Norfolk Poultry (TNP).
“We are targeting farmers willing to invest up to £1 million to set up a poultry unit. This will
generate a substantial addition to the farm income as well as returning their investment within ten
years. With farming facing a more uncertain future after Brexit, we believe this is an exciting and
profitable opportunity to diversify into a growing market.”
Over the last 30 years TNP has become one of the leading suppliers of high-welfare chickens to
major UK retailers. This growth has been based on contract production across more than 50 sites
in the region– owning the birds, housing and equipment and paying farmers for their facilities and
management of the flocks.
“From our conversations with the major retailers, we know there is no stopping the increase in
popularity of free range poultry,” said Gorton. “To meet this demand we need to bring a new
generation of farmers into the industry by providing them with a strong business case for investing
in production.
“Our new business model is based on farmers investing in purpose-built static housing that we
have specifically designed for larger flocks while providing the birds with the highest possible
welfare and the best utilisation of a fully enriched range.
“We have put together a package that covers everything from the initial planning / screening,
house design and build and range design through to comprehensive in-house training for new
growers. Importantly, we have established contacts for funding to finance the whole project. Unlike
some other types of diversification, this does not depend on the marketing expertise of the farmer -
but it does require the farmer to ‘buy in’ to our whole high welfare farming ethos.”
The optimum site requires five hectares of land with three houses for a total of 40,000 birds which
is projected to cost around £1 million to construct. There are also smaller options.
The project has been designed with help and advice from two colleagues with vast experience of
the UK poultry industry – Jim Lambert, who joined TNP as agricultural manager last autumn after
almost 25 years with Cobb, and Lionel Halls who has a lifetime’s experience within the poultry
industry and who has developed many poultry units across the UK during his career.
“Through the years TNP has built up a vast wealth of expertise in planning and obtaining approval
for free range sites, housing, equipment, fencing, tree planting, biosecurity and biomass as well as
how to manage birds on free range for maximum welfare and profitability,” said Jim Lambert.
“We will share this expertise with farmers seeking to invest in this type of production. We also have
our own academy farm near Ely where we provide residential and day-to-day practical training.”
Although the model scheme will typically provide a return on investment in ten years along with
enhancing farm income, it can be tailored to a longer period if the farmer opts to take a higher
income each year. Alternatively, TNP offers the option of renting back the facility if a farmer does
not want to be involved in running the unit.
“We believe the scheme will appeal to farmers who are seeking to diversify into an enterprise with
a high welfare ethos,” added Gorton. “High standards of welfare and environment are
increasingly shaping the future of farming in this country and we are seeking to help farmers take
advantage of this in a way that will also enhance returns from a typical East Anglian farm.”

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