Sue Robson, Newton Rigg’s Programme Manager brought along students from the City and Guilds ‘Skills for Working Life – Entry Level 2’ Diploma course. The visit to ‘The Lakes’ aimed to show the similarities and contrasts between domestic and commercial production.
The students were welcomed by Mark Gaskin, Managing Director at the Lakes Free Range Egg Company, who then spent the morning showing the visitors around the factory. Mark explained how they work with a number of small family farms from Cumbria, Lancashire and Scotland, to produce free range eggs for customers across the UK. In total they nearly a million hens producing barn, free range and organic eggs, in great contrast to the 50 poultry currently at the college.
The tour began at the point the eggs are delivered in to the factory and continued right through the grading and packing process, giving students a real insight into how eggs make it onto retail shelves. They were fascinated to hear that the number printed on the egg is a code that can trace the egg back to the farm on which it was laid, but it was the grading machine and the way the system moved eggs around the factory that intrigued them most, stimulating questions all the way round.
Sue Robson, Programme Manager said “Our students were engrossed by the whole operation, asking questions on everything from the life of their hens and the size of eggs, right through to their recycled packaging. It’s the second time I’ve brought students here and I’ve learned more again on this visit. Talking to our students back at the college, it was the robots and how the system guides eggs to the right size boxes that made a huge impression on some, but for others, it was the grading process that was remembered most. We always know how well a visit is going by the level of interaction, and there were certainly plenty of questions for Mark to answer!”
Once the visit around the factory was completed, the students sat and discussed how eggs are promoted. The college designs their own egg packaging, so they were keen to hear what the egg industry is doing to promote eggs. Jane Wilkinson the Sales and Marketing Director at ‘The Lakes’ explained how the British Egg Industry has launched a campaign called #eggcentric which aims to encourage more people to use eggs as an ingredient as part of a main meal. The students were all given a copy of the #eggcentric recipe book so they could try recipes at home.
Commenting on their visit Mark Gaskin said “It was a real pleasure to show these students around the factory. They were very interested, eager to learn and quick to pick up on the fact that the eggs are all graded into many different sets of packaging. It’s important to teach where our food comes from and how to make a meal from it, so we’re always pleased to welcome students. They left with a copy of the new #eggcentric recipe book so we hope they’ll try new dishes with their family, although according to one student, the best way to eat an egg is always scrambled. I can’t disagree.”