At Braswell Family Farms in Nashville, North Carolina, there is no argument about whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first because there, goodness always comes first – from the company’s farm-fresh eggs and superb animal feed to its culture.
This vertically-integrated egg producer works to make a difference as consumers enjoy its products daily across the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic states. The company supplies eggs for brands like Eggland’s Best, Natural Choice, Nature’s Finest, Land O’ Lakes, and Born Free. It also provides premier feed to commercial farmers throughout Virginia and North Carolina, and its footprint is constantly growing.
For Braswell Family Farms, business is about how one goes about attaining growth rather than racing its competitors to the top. Choice and integrity are key, and much thought is invested in every aspect of animal welfare, production, marketing, sales, and customer care.
“We want to honor God, take care of our people, and provide the safest and highest quality products. We won’t put eggs out there that I wouldn’t feed to my little girls. It’s not about the numbers as much as it is how we go about achieving them. This has been our tradition for four generations and why our company culture is so important,” says Ronald ‘Trey’ Braswell, III, the company’s fourth-generation president.
As a leading supplier in the field, Braswell Family Farms is considered a trusted food source, and that is not just talk. This company is so particular about its products that it strictly controls what its hens eat by milling its own feed. Thanks to this dedication, the company gives consumers a variety of egg options, putting animal welfare and quality first. This gives consumers the opportunity to choose a product in line with their values as well as their health and financial goals.
Braswell Family Farms is as meticulous about the quality of its feed products for chickens, turkeys, and hogs as it is about its eggs. The company has one of the largest organic feed mills on the East Coast and can customize feed according to the needs of its own egg business as well as those of its clients. Its vegetarian and antibiotic-free feed is provided directly to commercial farmers in search of specialty formulations.
When it comes to purchases and ordering, this company is the epitome of why smaller is better, with only one point of contact and a straightforward buying process. “We have a strong family feel, and I like to be a part of nurturing our relationships with customers, so I get to know people, and I like to check in with them to see how they are and how we can improve their experience to add value to the process,” says Trey.
The Eggland’s Best egg brand is, by far, its top seller. “Our products are really all about trust. Consumers know that they can trust the nutritional value, animal welfare, and food safety of Eggland’s Best. People are always telling me how these eggs taste and how really different they are. They love what we’ve done with it,” says Trey. To add to the excitement, the Born-Free label of eggs from free to roam hens is seeing sales steadily climbing as consumers discover it.
Providing consumers with a choice is a big deal, which is why Braswell Family Farms offers the full spectrum of different types of eggs. Throughout each of its production systems, the hens’ well-being is top priority.
“Some folks like to say that commercial farmers are only in it for the money, so they don’t take care of their animals, but those two things don’t reconcile, because if we didn’t take care of them, we wouldn’t have anything to provide to our consumers,” he says.
Taking the utmost care of the hens is, therefore, non-negotiable, and the company aims to exceed the animal welfare standards wherever it can. This means that all its employees and contractors are contractually bound to undergo regular animal welfare training. Partners are verified, audited, and supervised to ensure that the standards are met throughout all facilities. The company also values cleanliness, to the point where clients have commented that one can just about eat from its floors.
While the company partners with small family farms for sections of its organic and cage-free production, it owns all the chickens and controls all of the operations by providing its partners with chicks, feed, and programs that are carefully followed and supervised weekly.
To reinforce its commitment to accountability, Braswell Family Farms’ organic eggs are third-party certified. The organic laying hens are fed only grains certified to have been produced without commercial fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides. These hens also enjoy time outdoors in the sunshine and are protected from contact with chemical fertilizers. No toxic materials can be sprayed anywhere on the organic farms. This, of course, means running entirely separate farms for its organic products.
Trey’s great-great-uncle J.M. and great grandfather E.G. Braswell started the company by milling corn into meal with the help of an assistant at the historic Boddie grist mill built on Boddiemill Pond in 1843. Later, in 1956, Trey’s grandfather Ronald and Ronald’s brother, Gene joined the business, buying and renovating another old mill in Nashville in 1969.
Trey’s father Scott joined the company in 1975 and immediately turned to developing pullets and feed. The egg business became an obvious choice after losing a broiler breeder contract. The family has continued expanding the business in this way to where it is today, providing the East Coast with eggs. Trey joined in 2007 and helped to integrate the business into the modern market.
Today, other egg producers invest in its feed too. “They know that our commitment to quality and service is non-negotiable,” says Trey. Customers have left before to find lower prices, but have returned because they cannot find the same quality – or results – in any other feed. That is certainly one way to tell that it is onto a great thing.
“This is a great lesson that has been passed down from earlier generations. Don’t cut corners. And do things right. As a result, we prefer to focus on long-term wins rather than short-term wins,” he adds.
Of course, such commitment takes cooperation, and 220 staff members make this operation work. “We have a great crowd of people who care about the company like their own. They trust us to take care of them. That’s what really makes them strong. They really believe in the culture of the company and want to make it thrive,” says Trey.
He admits that it is not always easy to find good people, and so it is very important to retain the best. All this love goes a long way, often culminating in achievements like the Triangle Business Journal’s annual family business award the company won in December 2018 for excellence, innovation, integrity, generosity, and adding to the region’s economic prowess.
“The reason we are motivated to run a profitable company is so that we can bring glory to God and help people in need out there. It really is what drives us to be successful,” Trey says. Braswell Family Farms’ dedicated spirit of giving is not only refreshing but also inspiring. It even has its own ‘caring team’ consisting of employees from all over the business. They are given funds and tools to find ways in which to meet physical and emotional needs of their teammates, families, and the community.
The program is still in its infancy, but the company leadership is thrilled to see a culture of caring blossom and spread. “We want people to understand that this is a family and that we’re all in this together,” he adds. In the same way, this year, the company has dedicated a large portion of its profits from the fall toward disaster relief in the wake of last year’s hurricanes that affected most of the state of North Carolina.
This industry leader enjoys modest organic growth annually, and talks of acquisitions to bolster and stimulate future expansion. “We’re open to looking at operations that fit in with our culture and product line, but we’re not about reaching goals at all cost. We’re about being solid and consistent, and about doing things in a way that glorifies God,” says Trey.
With a legacy of caring about people as much as it does about business and its mission of glorifying God while providing the safest and highest quality eggs and feed, Braswell Family Farms will no doubt remain a part of the country’s top egg and feed production landscape for generations to come.