‘Free-range’ is a loose, tricky term, whose meaning can be twisted, stretched and bent. Not for Frenz, though, which sees free-range as a non-negotiable value.

Owner Rob Darby started the egg producing company in the ‘80s from a single farm in Pukekohe. Despite some downward pressures within the market, with free-range standards being rewritten a few times to include industrial-sized players, Frenz has never compromised on its high morals. Today, it’s the only national egg company Certified Bio-Gro, which means their 18 owner-operated farms meet the strictest free-range standards.

“If we were to apply for any other standards, we would have to lower ours to meet them,” said Frenz sales manager Olivia Kelly.

The company has recently invested in expansion. “We understand this market is changing, as competition for the free-range segment grows and the market is swamped by large industrial players. Yet, to be true free-range, henhouses must be open 24/7 requiring small flock sizes so the land can be farmed sustainably, with farmers rotating their flocks through different paddocks to keep the grass nice and fresh.”

As the saying goes, ‘the early bird catches the worm’, and that’s literally what true free-range hens are 'free' to do. A good deal of technology is also involved, but in the right way. Frenz’s new million-dollar grader investment separates the eggs based on weight, quality and colour, making sure retail get the best grade (as brown as possible with no blemishes). The company has been the first in NZ to produce ‘Kitchen-Safe’ eggs, which are washed, dried and sanitised using an organic solution and UV sanitisation. Moreover, their machines feature an in-built inkjet printer that can safely print messages, logos and even Christmas wishes on the egg shell.

The challenge now is to grow without losing its core values. The company has decided to add more farms rather than increasing the size of its existing ones, and 30 farmers are already interested in joining Frenz. “With the majority of so-called free-range hens never seeing the light of day let alone green pasture it is important to maintain the Frenz mantra “‘keeping it real”’, and that means farming sustainable small flocks so that the added value in taste and nutrients that pasture raised brings can be delivered to the customer.”