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Insights from Noble Foods' sustainable poultry strategy

June 2, 2023

How can businesses in the agriculture industry remain profitable and efficient while also actively improving their sustainability and fostering a world of abundance for all? It’s a difficult proposition — but it can be done, as Graham Atkinson, the agriculture director at Noble Foods, illustrated during his presentation at Alltech ONE Budapest, the first stop on the Alltech ONE World Tour.

Noble Foods is the largest egg producer in the U.K. and the third-largest egg producer in all of Europe, with 7.2 million layers across 400 farms, 240 of which are owned by contracted producers. The company has its own logistics fleet, milling business unit, egg-packing centers, and liquid-egg, boiled-egg and hen-processing facilities. 

RELATED CONTENT: Graham Atkinson was featured recently in an episode of our Ag Future podcast. Click here to listen now.

Such a successful and far-reaching agricultural business has the potential to have a major impact on the environment — either positively or negatively. As Atkinson explained in his presentation, Noble Foods is committed to making sure its impact on the world is for the better.

“Our vision, our strategy,” he said, “is to better nourish people, animals and the planet.”

Tangible steps toward sustainability

Noble Foods is working hard to make its vision of a more sustainable world a reality. Some of the steps the company has taken to make both itself and the agriculture industry at large more environmentally friendly include: 

  • Investing in renewable energy, such as solar power
  • Switching to low-carbon alternatives like LED lighting and more efficient boilers
  • Committing to achieving 100% cage-free production by 2025
  • Complying with the Water Roadmap and joining the Wye Agri-Food Partnership to help prevent waterway contamination
  • Launching Purely, the first organic egg brand in the U.K., which has been certified carbon-neutral by the Carbon Trust

Noble Foods also established its company-wide Environmental Sustainability Programme (ESP) in 2018, which strives to include everyone on the journey to improved sustainability.

“If we want to move the dial on our sustainability journey, engaging people … is absolutely critical in getting them on board,” Atkinson said. “Every single person on every one of our sites is involved in the work that goes on from an ESP perspective.”

This idea of collaborating on the common goal of protecting the Earth aligns perfectly with Alltech’s vision of Working Together for a Planet of Plenty™, which is what led Noble Foods to become a Planet of Plenty™ partner with Alltech.   

Through this partnership, Alltech and Noble Foods are working together to determine how to improve the performance of poultry flocks and increase the profitability of poultry production in ways that are good for the planet. Toward that end, Noble Foods has conducted several trials studying various ways that the poultry industry could become more sustainable. These trials have included:

  • A study with EnviroPak, which combines multiple Alltech Gut Health technologies into one solution
  • An assessment of the efficacy of soya-free rations
  • A comparison of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of white and brown chickens


Improved efficiency and quality with EnviroPak

The main goal of the EnviroPak trial was to determine whether providing birds with solutions that support their gut health, like those from Alltech, can lead to more efficient production — or even better-quality eggs.

The results of the trial, which was conducted on one of Noble Foods’ major hen operations, were overwhelmingly positive. Thanks to the improved bioavailability and absorption of the solutions included in EnviroPak, hens in the trial group exhibited a dramatic decrease in mineral excretion and an increase in efficiency. The hens being provided with EnviroPak were also able to produce more eggs than the control group over the same period of time — and the eggs were of a higher quality, with better weight and shell strength. This was particularly notable, as being able to sell more class-A eggs shows producers that sustainability is not only achievable but profitable.

“Nothing’s more engaging than telling someone that they’re going to make money,” Atkinson noted wryly.

Assessing soya-free rations

While soya has traditionally been a prominent ingredient in poultry rations, there’s a marked difference in the GHG emissions of rations that include soya and those that don’t. With that in mind, Noble Foods wanted to show producers that they can still remain profitable and produce high-quality eggs and meat while feeding soya-free diets.

The trial studying soya-free rations was completed on the farms of Noble Foods’ contracted producers. The results were overwhelmingly positive: No major difference was detected in the egg production of birds who received soya and those who did not, and the number of eggs produced was also much the same. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a reduction in the carbon footprint per kilogram of egg produced was observed in the soya-free group.

Through its Planet of Plenty partnership with Alltech, after the completion of the trial, Noble Foods worked with Alltech E-CO2 to analyze all of the data collected and compile it in a form that will be most useful for producers looking to implement soya-free rations in their own operations.  

Comparing white and brown hens

Noble Foods also partnered with Alltech E-CO2 to explore the data captured through a trial that studied the differences between white and brown chickens — of which, perhaps surprisingly, there are many. White hens have longer laying cycles (meaning fewer hens are required to produce the same amount of eggs) and are more docile than brown hens, leading to improved performance and manageability — and, as a result, a lower environmental impact.

While many other countries have already begun favoring white hens in egg production, the U.K. is still holding fast with its beloved brown birds.

“The U.K. consumer is in a deep love affair with brown eggs, and we’ve been in that love affair for decades,” Atkinson said.  

The results of Noble Foods’ trial of egg production in white vs. brown birds might convince some U.K. producers to make the switch, as the carbon footprint of white birds per kilogram of egg produced was lower than that of brown birds.

“At every metric, white birds are a winner,” Atkinson said.

Working Together for a Planet of Plenty

As Atkinson noted at ONE Budapest, 95% of households in the U.K. eat eggs. With such widespread popularity, the poultry industry will likely only keep growing — making it more imperative than ever to boost the sustainability of poultry production. Noble Foods is dedicated to making sustainable operations the norm for poultry producers and, in turn, fostering a world of abundance for all.

“That’s our ultimate goal: improving the health and longevity of our planet,” Atkinson said.

Related ONE content

Alltech ONE Budapest explored the strategies for remaining resilient amid the significant challenges facing our industry. It offered captivating insights from industry experts on topics of production efficiency, risk management, the power of data, and partnerships — all through the lens of sustainability.

Explore our other content, including photos and videos, from Alltech ONE Budapest at and the links below.

Opening keynote: Turning agricultural challenges into global opportunities

Blog: Harnessing data for sustainable profitability in agriculture

Podcast: Sustainability in the poultry business

Key dairy industry trends to watch in 2023