Cage free in the US: “We like to stay ahead of market developments”

2 min read published on 1 March 2022
cage free

“My grandfather received 10 hens as a wedding gift, so he started raising them and selling the eggs. The company itself was started quite a few years later, by my father, his brother and a neighbour.”

Mark Woodward is Vice President of Ritewood, a long term US egg producer. He grew up in poultry: “My father was originally a school teacher, he raised birds on the side for extra income. When he stopped teaching he had about 10,000 birds, at the moment we have about 3,5 million, and over 230 employees.”

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Can you tell us more about your company?

“We are active in two companies: Ritewood and Oakdell. Ritewood was established more than 50 years ago, they produce the eggs. Oakdell also produces eggs in Washington state, and in addition is the marketing and distribution part of the company. It has been active more than 40 years now. The companies are working in very different geographic areas, and do not completely have the same owners.”

“My role is that of Vice President of Ritewood. We have farms at four locations, I work at the largest location with about 1,5 million birds. I enjoy the variety of my job, although I sit at my desk quite a bit. But I like getting out of the office, for instance to visit our grading plant and to walk through the barns.”

How did you get in contact with Vencomatic Group?

“We started with cage free eggs in 2009 when one of our main customers wanted to sell organic eggs. That was the moment we got in contact with Tom Randall , he is still our main contact. We noticed right away that there were two main differences at the time between Vencomatic equipment and other partners. 1. The equipment truly was cage free – you couldn’t close the sides of the equipment and lock the hens in, and 2. The equipment was designed from the ground up – it didn’t look like a converted cage system.”

“Organic eggs work well for us, we want to stay ahead of changes in customer preferences. We are always trying to stay ahead of the market, we like to innovate and not fall behind. Although we are actually going back to the past, because when I was young all eggs were cage free.”

“We started with the Jump Start, we have been using that exclusively for the pullets. We have six buildings with a Jump Start, raising from 20.000-100.000 pullets at a time. We also used the Bolegg Terrace and a few years ago, we started using the Bolegg Gallery. They both work very well.

What other products do you use?

“We have also been packing our eggs with your Prinzen Speedpack for a few years now, it works very well. When we first started with organic hens in 2009, our company didn’t have many eggs to farm pack, so we converted an old packer from our grading plant and used that for a couple of years."

"We just finished installing your Meggsius system for egg flow and counting, we are very happy with it. It does a lot more than counting: we blend the egg flows coming in to the packer, and keep the volume constant. We are learning a lot with these tools.”

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Vencomatic Group