There has been an increase in the number of Moy Park suppliers who have decided to leave the poultry meat processor and start table egg production.

Free-range broiler growers were generally the first to make the switch to free-range eggs, with several conversions taking place last year.

This was because these units were well laid out, with land around sheds for birds to access, and the producers were already familiar with free-range systems.

However, conventional broiler producers and growers of breeding stock have followed suit, as lucrative contracts with egg packers based in both NI and Britain remain available.

Sources indicate that Moy Park now has very few grandparent units left in NI and a significant number of conversions from conventional broilers have occurred recently.

The upheaval marks a major change in the NI poultry sector. Before egg packers started recruiting existing poultry units, Moy Park had firm control over its supply chain.

“Two years ago, we had nowhere to go if you wanted out of Moy Park. Now there are a handful of different options,” said one local poultry producer.


A key driver behind the change is tight planning permission rules in NI due to ammonia emissions.

Egg packers find it much easier to recruit existing poultry producers, rather than wait for a prospective new entrant to go through a prolonged and costly planning process, with no guarantee of success.

For most poultry units, the cost of conversion is significant. It typically takes over £300,000 to convert a single broiler house to free-range eggs.

Reports indicate that waiting times of up to six months are common for egg-laying equipment at present, although there is effectively no delay for growers who are moving into rearing pullets.

Moy Park suppliers do need to see out a notice period before leaving and this tends to be two bird crops, which equates to around 14 weeks, under most contracts.

Suitable units

Smaller broiler units are most suitable for free range eggs as land is more likely to be available for birds to access.

That said, some larger units are managing to convert as well. Sheds at the edge of yards are typically converted to free-range eggs and buildings that have no direct access to land are used for barn eggs or as litter stores.

Planning can still be an issue for some poultry producers who want to convert to eggs if their original approval specified exactly which type of poultry unit was to be built.


It was initially egg packers based in Britain who started causing movement within the NI poultry sector last year, initially targeting existing egg producers.

However, reports suggest that NI-based egg packers have responded and lucrative contracts from packers across the UK are available for those wishing to supply eggs.

“The local packers have upped their game,” said a source familiar with the matter.

With many egg packers currently paying 170p/dozen for eggs, it means a typical bird is bringing in over £18 during the course of a crop, with feed and pullet costs already covered.

NI broiler output

Concerns have been raised that Moy Park has not responded by offering better arrangements to its remaining suppliers to help maintain its supply base in NI.

It has also been pointed out that the poultry giant has been active in growing its operation in Britain in recent years.

On enquiry, a spokesperson for Moy Park declined to disclose the number of NI growers who have terminated supply contracts in recent months.

“We work with some 700 growers across the UK and while there will always be fluctuations from year to year, output is at a similar level to the previous year.

“Poultry production remains attractive for producers, offering an integrated, stable option to grow successful and sustainable farm businesses,” the spokesperson said.