Attention to detail is serious business in pursuit of fine eggs

Roy Allinson with one of his hens at Southwick Farm, Finghall near Bedale.
Roy Allinson with one of his hens at Southwick Farm, Finghall near Bedale.
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IF YOU want to upset Roy Allinson find a cracked egg in one of his egg boxes.

Everyone used to do it didn’t they? You know what I mean, lift the lid of the box of eggs you are about to purchase just to check that all six are okay. I’m sure many of us still do, but Roy is meticulous with his own branded boxes of Wensleydale Eggs where he packs them with his father at Southwick Farm in Finghall, near Bedale.

“You get a cracked egg off me and I take it as a personal insult because with my dad we put every single egg into that box. We have a machine that will do it automatically but I won’t use it. I want to guarantee that every egg is perfect.

“An automated machine puts them in and shuts the lid before you can check. I can’t take that. It does my dad’s head in but it has to be done.”

Roy decided to specialise in poultry after leaving school. It was a decision he made with future employment very much in his mind.

“Our farmland only runs to around seven acres and I looked at how I was going to get a job. We had a few turkeys at the time and I thought that if I specialised in poultry I would be more likely to get a role in the industry.

“I decided to go to agricultural college but I didn’t want to study for a standard degree. I looked for a specific poultry degree but there wasn’t one. The only place that I could study for a poultry qualification was at the Scottish Agricultural College in Ayrshire.

“I went up and studied for a HND as they had given up with the degree course the year before.

“I then went down to Harper Adams University where I picked up my degree by what was referred to as ‘negotiated studies’. It meant that I picked up the poultry elements of other degree courses and all of my case studies were on poultry.”

Roy’s desire and determination stood him in good stead. He initially took a job based in Kettering, Northamptonshire, selling poultry feed for BOCM Pauls.

“I sold farmers the feed on the back of looking at their flock performance and how I could improve it for them. It worked well and I enjoyed my time doing it.”

After four years of selling feed Roy was ready to return home to Yorkshire and start building a family with his wife Debbie from Glenluce, near Stranraer whom he had met whilst studying in Scotland.

He was also keen on starting his own poultry business, which he now runs with his father Frank.

Mum, Freda, also works on the farm as well as being a driving instructor; and his sister Charlotte’s husband Chris drives for him one day a week. He and Debbie now also have two young boys – Finlay, aged four, and Thomas, two.

“When we started it was barn eggs that were supposed to be the next big thing, but free range is where the demand is now.

“We use Hi Line hens. They’re quite a lazy bird but are rangy and well-feathered. It’s more important to me that when people drive past and see them outside that they see well-feathered birds. I’d rather they eat a bit more feed and maybe not produce as many eggs because they look better.

“We grade our eggs very hard. I can look at an egg and say whether a hen has some kind of issue because of its colour and the scoring. Calcium splashes are a real giveaway.

“I took the decision to market our eggs locally and now within a 20-mile radius of the farm you won’t find anything much but Wensleydale Eggs.”

Roy has brought his own entrepreneurial style to the job, which perhaps wouldn’t be out of place during a challenge on the BBC show The Apprentice. He brings a personal touch to selling eggs that you won’t find elsewhere.

“I go out, knock on doors cold calling, leaving people eggs and saying this is what we do. I even crack eggs in front of people and say ‘just look at the yolk’. I give hundreds of eggs away in order to build up business.

“There was one man who said just drop me an email and when I did he said my eggs were too expensive. When I asked how much he was retailing them at in his store I understood why.

“I told him he was way too cheap and that he needed to put a figure on top of mine to give him margin and that he’d sell because people aren’t used to a quality fresh egg. Now I’ve two stores out of it and he makes the margin.”

Wensleydale Eggs are sold in a quality branded box and the family wears shirts and sweaters that carry the company logo.

Roy clearly believes in attention to the finest details.

“I even took my eggs to the printer and cracked them open so they could match the colour of our egg yolk on all our printed material.”

Roy is expanding his market opportunities and recently attended the Wensleydale Food and Drink Festival for the first time.