The chickens from the Limburg-based egg producer Kipster have a pretty good life. The environment benefits as well from their work methods. The eggs that find their way from the farms in Oirlo and Beuningen to e.g., the Lidl retail chain, are all CO2 neutral. “The most sustainable eggs in the world,” says founder Ruud Zanders proudly. He has spent his entire life working on poultry farms. But he wants to go a step further: “My ultimate goal is that we no longer use animals commercially in our food system.”
How did you come up with the idea for your start-up?
“A couple of years ago, I was showing a group of Africans around The Netherlands. They wanted to know more about poultry farming. I took them to all kinds of places. From a company with battery chickens, to a farm with free-range chickens, to an organic, sustainable poultry farm. I explained how we try to optimize everything as much as possible. Including the chicken feed. Then they told me: ‘Ruud, if we had such good grain and corn, we’d eat that ourselves!'”
I’d never thought about it like that before here in The Netherlands. A kilo of cereal can feed up to 10 people. But if you use it to feed one chicken, you only get to feed 4 people in the end. The Netherlands are the best farmers in the world. Yet you might wonder if our system is any good. I subsequently started thinking about whether things could be done differently. Then, together with my partners, we came up with the idea of what is now Kipster.”
What sets your company apart from the rest?
“We’re the only commercial poultry company in the world where chickens are fed exclusively with leftovers from the food chain. We originally started out by questioning the role of animals in the food system. Wageningen University has done research into this. We learned a lot from that too.
The basic idea is that fertile soil should be used to grow crops. Then you have some land left over which is just suitable for grazing. In that case, you can keep a cow or a goat on it. Even though you can feed pigs and chickens with food scraps. That’s something that we have lost sight of in the prosperous West. It’s not at all new. Humankind has been doing it for centuries.”
Scraps and leftovers
“Our chicken feed comes from large-scale bakeries. Anything that was a mistake, leftover bread and pastries, that sort of thing. That leftover scraps go to a feed mill, where it’s analyzed for its nutritional value. This is then used to make the feed that we give to our chickens. This is supplemented with residual products from agriculture. The ratio is about 70% from bakeries and the food industry, and 3o% from agricultural products. Nothing else is added, except for a few vitamins and assorted additives.
Our ultimate goal is that there will be no more waste streams whatsoever. And that we eat everything that we produce where food is concerned. A society which no longer uses animals commercially like that anymore. You can make a lot of tasty things without any need for animals. After all, you can bake a delicious cake without eggs too.
Most likely there will always be animals in the food system. But then you have to treat them in an animal-friendly and eco-friendly way. We do that as best as we can. And everyone is allowed in here to see that for themselves without having to make an appointment. Not right now on account of corona, of course. But when that’s over, then anyone is welcome to come and visit our farm again.”
What has been the main obstacle that you have had to overcome?
“Well, any obstacles we came up against weren’t so bad. The hardest part was getting everything properly coordinated. That was part of my job. And we had to overcome the skepticism of some people.”
What are you most proud of?
“We’re really proud that it all worked out. We now have a well-run farm in Oirlo. Earlier this year, we opened a second farm in Beuningen. We now want to set up businesses in other countries. We are active in Belgium, France and the United States and are doing that based on a franchise concept. We’re looking for on-site partners for this – we primarily provide the know-how. The business side is handled by those in the country concerned.”
Where will the company be in 5 years’ time?
“I hope that we will have become an international egg brand within 5 years. Whereby the eggs are produced regionally, of course. More importantly, this should allow us to communicate our vision of a world with a sustainable food system. A world where our eggs are produced in a sustainable, CO-2-neutral and animal-friendly way.”
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