Eggs-pecting great things as Pancake Day approaches

Ian Taylor prepares for Shrove Tuesday at Hambleton View Farm, Burton Leonard.
Ian Taylor prepares for Shrove Tuesday at Hambleton View Farm, Burton Leonard.
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Will you be flipping, tossing or turning your pancakes very carefully on Tuesday?

This week Ian Taylor was in cracking form getting some practice in at Hambleton View Farm in Burton Leonard between Ripon and Knaresborough. If he ever drops a pancake one thing he’s not short of is eggs. He has 28,000 laying hens and his eponymously titled Ian Taylor Free Range Eggs are in great demand in North and West Yorkshire whatever the time of year. He’s looking forward to next week.

“Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day certainly sees a peak in demand but it’s gone down a little over the years as many large egg producers are now producing bottles of pancake mix. Our eggs always provide a richer orangey colour because of how we feed them and that means those making pancakes will have a nicer batter and a tastier pancake on their plate. I love them.”

Ian’s partner Rita (Baker) believes that with next week being half-term for schools this year’s Pancake Day could see a spike in sales similar to that of October last year.

“It might go well again because egg sales had a phenomenal increase during the last half-term. The final of the Great British Bake Off had just taken place and sales were zooming. There was a feeling that parents may have been spending more time baking with their kids and perhaps that will be the case again as they’re on holiday.”

Ian’s fascination with hens and egg production began when he was six. His uncle Derek bought him six day-old chicks. His father John farmed at Bishop Monkton while his uncles Derek and Nigel run the family farm in Burton Leonard.

“The chicks were in a Clark’s shoebox and I was over the moon with them. When I was 12 I bought some chicks of my own and I’ve never been without hens since. I started selling eggs to the teachers at school and other kids’ parents. I’d also go around on my pushbike knocking on doors and selling wherever I could. My biggest breakthrough was the mother of a friend in the village who took a dozen one week and the following week wanted five dozen with orders from others. She was my best advert at the time as she went around saying that my eggs were great.

“My uncles have sheep, pigs, beef cattle and a dairy herd and they were buying the feed for my hens while I was selling the eggs. I was probably the richest kid at St Aidan’s School in Harrogate, which made school life even better because I only ever went there so I could leave. At 16, I had 400-500 hens and my trade was already building up through word of mouth.”

After leaving school Ian worked on a dairy farm in South Stainley for three months and then for the Potter family’s poultry enterprise in Catton before concentrating on his own business. Today he has a lifetime lease on where his hens and egg packing buildings are at Hambleton View. He has 14,000 free-range layers on the farm and two other producers elsewhere in Yorkshire. When not working with his hens and eggs he works for his uncles in return for rent and other expenses.

“We supply independent retailers and restaurants as far south from here as Wakefield and across to Helmsley. I keep it that way. If you produce for a large packer you have no control over your end value. You just get what they say they are going to pay.

“I’m obsessed with producing good eggs and because we cut out all the middlemen we can afford to put a bit extra into the birds in terms of their ration. I also deliver the eggs two-and-a-half days a week. It’s like being the landlord of a pub, it’s important you’re seen. I also top up the stores with their stocks and they let me get on with it.”

TV chefs have always had an impact on egg sales. The latest spike has been in the sale of pullet eggs, the first eggs laid when birds are young and immature.

“Jamie Oliver recently broadcast a programme extolling the virtue of pullet eggs as being very rich although very small. The yolk makes a larger percentage of the egg and the whites are very solid and ideal for poaching.

“We’ve just restocked and that means we have a lot of young hens at the moment. We’ve received a dozen or so calls in the past few days about them.”