Better Eggs’ sustainable forest farm near Tokoroa in South Waikato is set to become New Zealand’s leading free range egg production site.
Opened in April this year, the 139-hectare property will be developed over the next five years to ultimately be the home of 320,000 laying hens free ranging in the forest’s 90,000 native and exotic trees with eight laying sheds.
“Better Eggs is a New Zealand family-owned business with strong family values,” says Chief Executive Gareth van der Heyden.
“These values are what have led us to innovate a whole new way of poultry farming in New Zealand that will enable the hens to live in a natural forest environment from which they originated, while producing eggs in a sustainable manner.
“Hens will be able to roam and scratch on the forest floor in the shade, shelter and safety provided by the trees and the laying sheds are specially designed to give the birds natural light and ample space to roam around in. We are providing the birds with the highest animal welfare and hen enrichment standards. We sought advice from Australia and Europe that enables us to exceed best practice in many facets.”
Van der Heyden said the forest free range farm is an agroforestry venture combining forestry and poultry enterprise. The pine, oak, poplar, eucalyptus, redwood and manuka trees planted on the property will be milled for timber or pulp when they mature. The growing trees will sequester carbon.
The farm is highly automated enabling staff on site to spend a greater portion of their time caring for the hens. Eggs are transported from the nesting boxes via conveyor belts to a robot that packs the eggs into trays and pallets which are then collected by trucks for delivery to the existing grading and distribution facility nearby in Lichfield.
The forest free range site was officially opened by local Member of Parliament Louise Upston who said she was delighted to have such a substantial and innovative business expansion in South Waikato.
The forest farm opened with 20,000 hens. The development of the free range forest is creating employment in the district. When fully developed the site will directly employ around 15 people and create many more job opportunities in supporting businesses.
“It is fantastic to see this significant investment in our community which will bring new jobs and opportunities to the South Waikato. With this long term investment the van der Heyden family is demonstrating their commitment to our community,” said Upston.
Van der Heyden said the land for the forest farm was purchased in early 2018 and the first shed was completed in late 2020. The second shed is scheduled to be completed in 2022 and tree planting for shed three got underway in September 2021.
Better Eggs is the combination of three proud family-owned poultry farms, Heyden Farms Limited, Henergy Cage-Free Limited and Rasmusen’s Poultry Farm Limited. Henergy pioneered cage-free barn egg production in New Zealand and Rasmusen’s is a fourth-generation family farm founded in 1937.
Under the banner of Better Eggs, Heyden Farms is now pioneering free range egg production with this leading forest free range project.