An organic egg producer who supplies Avoca, the Dublin Coop, Nourish and more has plans to significantly grow his Carlow-based enterprise, such is the demand for high quality eggs.
Butler's Organic Eggs was established in 2007 when David Butler took over the family farm at Hacketstown in Carlow, just over an hour outside Dublin.
What started off as a 250 bird enterprise has grown slowly and strategically over the years into a 2,500 bird organic egg farm set back from the roadside in lush, green fields.
It's where laying hens roam freely, scratch at their leisure across a large open area and feast on specially produced organic pellets.
While the family-focused enterprise has grown slowly over the years, David's wife Paula has now given up a permanent, pensionable post as Communications and Freedom of Information Officer with over 20 years' service to join David at the coalface.
It means they can now plan better for a more family-friendly future and developing an organic egg legacy they can pass down to their children, Noel (8) and Kate (6).
"We're turning customers away, such is the demand for our organic eggs," Paula explained.
"I left my job to help grow a family business we can pass on to our children. David can now concentrate on the welfare and farming side of the business while I can focus on brand and business development.
"We’re working closely with Carlow County Council’s - Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and through the Interreg-funded, Ireland-Wales food, drink and life sciences CATALYST programme, I’m working with a consultant on an expansion plan which could potentially double the size of our business over a number of years.
"There is definitely room for expansion. We can’t continue to turn customers away. But welfare is also our priority.
"Any expansion will have to be done strategically and carefully. Our birds are happy birds and any disruption or changes could upset them and could also result in a sudden drop in production.
"Our motto has always been ‘Fresh eggs from happy Hens’ and we want to keep it that way.
"Carlow has a proud, long food heritage and is renowned as a quality food and drinks producer, particularly in terms of supply to the convenient and ever growing Dublin market.
"Welfare and quality are at the heart of everything we do and we need to ensure that any changes don’t upset our ladies."
A Dublin-based wholesaler assists with prompt and widespread distribution of the 1,000 plus dozen eggs produced weekly.
And Butler’s Organic Eggs are also sold in Farmers Markets across Leinster, including through organic meat producers, Coolanowle at the farmers market in Carlow.
SuperValu have been a huge supporter, Paula added, and their eggs are also available in select stores around Carlow and the surrounding hinterland.
Like all organic egg farms, Butler’s Organic Eggs are heavily regulated and regularly inspected by both the department and the industry umbrella body.
Animal welfare is paramount, David says, and he’s all for checks.
"Birds are very well looked after in organic production. They have twice the space that even free range hens do. Their food is second to none.
"We would love to be able to source organic layer’s pellets in Ireland. They have to come in from the UK. We don’t grow enough organic crops in Ireland at the moment to allow for their manufacture.
"Organic means just that - no pesticides, no chemicals, no GMOS, no colourants and no fertilizers. It is the very best of the best.
"Being able to source it in Ireland would not just provide extra jobs in Ireland. But it would cut down on transport costs and emissions and be better all round," he added.
David and Paula put the growth in demand for Butlers Organic Eggs down to better awareness of the benefits of eating organic.
David said: "As consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of eating healthy the demand for organic continues to grow.
"Over the years we expanded gradually, ensuring all of our birds ae allowed the freedom to roam on organic pastures and have plenty of space indoors with a very sought after large scratch area.
"The Irish Organic Association certifies our farm. IOA ensure a rigorously maintained set of production and processing standards and a certification scheme for organic food.
"This ensures that unlike any other eggs produced, including free-range eggs, there is no chemicals, antibiotics or artificial fertilizers used in the bird’s diet or on their pastures."
But in spite of their best efforts to educate and inform consumers, some people still ask if the hens on Butler’s Organic Egg farm roam freely, Paula revealed.
"I explain that organic is like free range plus, plus, plus. Organic means they have to be free range. Their feed and where they roam and scratch is free from all the things that harm our food, harm our environment and ultimately harm our health.
"Organic hens have twice the space indoors and outdoors. Small wonder why we feel they taste twice as good. Their welfare is paramount. It always was and will always be, no matter what else happens into the future."
Customers rave about Butler’s Organic Eggs. Among these is renowned TV and radio chef, Karl Clarke, aka Charlo the Chef.
"Butler’s Organic Eggs are a quality, quality product. Long may they keep supplying and making us chefs and customers very, very happy people.
"These eggs are higher in nutritional value with darker, golden egg yolks that taste divine," he said.
Butler’s Organic Eggs is supported by Carlow County Council – Local Enterprise Office – promoting innovation, ambition of success in Carlow.