For Braswell Foods, business starts and ends with family. For four generations and more than 70 years, the Braswell family has produced and marketed quality, value-added feed and organic egg products for American families and businesses through vertical integration and a company mission driven to setting the standard in agricultural excellence.
“First and foremost, our mission is to provide the safest and highest quality eggs and feed in a manner that glorifies God and builds relationships that extend well beyond simply doing business,” shares Trey Braswell, fourth generation family member and now executive vice president of Braswell Foods.
Braswell Foods is now one of the leading organic feed and egg producers in the U.S., and the second largest Eggland’s Best Eggs franchisee in the country. Today, several companies exist under the Braswell Foods umbrella, all of which work together seamlessly to get delicious farm-fresh eggs from farms to one’s table in only a short amount of time.
From father to son
The family-owned company is highly vertically integrated today, but the entire operation started small in an old North Carolina grist mill. The Boddie Mill, built in 1834, a few miles outside of Nashville, N.C., is a historic site originally used for grinding cornmeal using hydropower.
In 1942, brothers J.M. “Joe” and E.G. “Eugene” Braswell purchased the Boddie Mill to supplement feed materials for their growing pullet business. “The original family that owned the mill lost it through the depression and it changed hands several times before my great-grandfather, Eugene, and my great-great uncle, Joe, purchased it,” tells Trey. “They ground corn for feed and also to make cornmeal, which they sold through local delivery routes.”
In 1956, Ronald and Gene Braswell, Eugene’s sons, returned from the war to enter the family business. “They came into town and bought an existing mill, which was processing custom feed,” recalls Trey. “That’s when we really started to support the pullet business; growing baby chicks for egg customers up and down the East Coast, which we still do today for some private companies, although the industry is much more vertically integrated.”
Ronald’s son, Scott Braswell, extended Braswell Food’s third generation in 1979. His emphasis was in developing innovative pullet and commercial laying hen barns to produce quality pullets and eggs in the most efficient manner. Trey followed Scott, continuing the fourth generation of family ownership. “I’ve been here full-time for six years now,” says Trey.
In the time since Trey has come home, the company has added two new pullet houses to supply ongoing demands for high-quality pullets, grown its specialty egg business and added a state-of-the-art layer house to keep up with growing sales.
“We have two packaging and distribution locations; one in eastern North Carolina where the company is headquartered, one in central Virginia and we hope to be starting construction on a new state-of-the-art facility soon,” notes Trey. “We employ over 200 people, have our own fleet of feed and egg distribution of around 35 trucks, including feed trailers and refrigerated egg delivery trailers, and we distribute across the U.S.”
Located just a few short miles from the original Braswell mill is Carolina Egg Companies Inc. (CEC), which is a modern, state-of-the-art, egg farm where the eggs are laid, packaged and distributed, bringing in annual sales of more than 40 million dozen eggs a year.
In support of its growing egg operation, Trey explains Braswell Foods’ vertical integration in the feed sector. “It funnels down and reduces cost for the company, which in turn we pass through to the end-user, the consumer,” he details. “The mill location, which is also the corporate office site, is completely computer automated and delivers the highest quality feed to meet our strict quality standards.”
Combining twofold feed and egg production, Braswell Food is also strategically located to provide local and sustainably farmed eggs to customers in the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern U.S. However, Trey says the company wouldn’t have been able to accomplish so much on a large scale without a strategic partnership it developed back in the late ‘80s.
A risk worth taking
“In the late ‘80s, my grandfather and great-uncle took a big risk and bought a franchise in Eggland’s Best Eggs (Eggland’s Best), which at the time was just a concept and wasn’t nearly as successful as it is now,” recounts Trey. “The idea for a premium, value-added, healthier egg was a relatively new concept.”
According to Trey, it took a while for the franchise to take off and Braswell Foods had to stick with it in sheer faith in the beginning. “There was this misconception that eggs weren’t healthy, because of the cholesterol,” tells Trey. “We were fighting that battle, and at first, we were plowing money in on pure faith. Thankfully, it took off and now eggs are considered nature’s perfect superfood consumed widely.”
Braswell Foods now produces and markets retail and food service egg products, including shell, hard cooked and liquid forms. Within these categories the company offers special pack sizes, customized egg stamping and customized cartons.
“On the retail side we pack for Eggland’s Best, Natural Choice and a number of other private labels for several major supermarket chains,” says Trey. “We also pack and distribute eggs on flats for the food service and restaurant industry.”
The mark of eggcellence
Today, the company is the second largest Eggland’s Best franchisee in the country, as well as a licensee for Horizon Organic Eggs, a leading producer of value-added private-label egg products. “We’re proud to be American Humane Certified by the American Humane Association, which ensures the care of farm animals, as well as receiving the ISO 14001 certification for industry leadership as an environmental steward,” adds Trey.
Braswell Foods produces in excess of 60 million dozen eggs a year with a few more that 2 million hens. “But we know our eggs are only as good as the quality of our chickens and our extended Braswell Foods family; our employees,” continues Trey. “That’s why we go to extreme lengths to take care of our hens and our people. This is one reason why the company is continually revamping its facilities, and looking for better ways to reward our people and intrinsically have a positive impact on their lives as a whole.”
However, Trey and his team do not rest on their laurels. “It’s on the drawing board to modernize and expand our production capabilities in the Mid-Atlantic with updated equipment and modern cage-free and organic housing to serve out growing specialty egg markets,” says Trey.
Overall, Braswell Foods is giving consumers better choices, both cage-free and organic. “Each system has its own third-party audit to receive certification,” explains Trey.
As an additional point, Braswell Foods is a proud member of the North Carolina Goodness Grows and Virginia’s finest agriculture programs. “We make it a point to be an active supporter of local, sustainable farming that brings the freshest, safest and best tasting eggs to our customers,” assures Trey.
Connecting with consumers, customers and vendors
With a steadily climbing global population, the pressure is on farmers to produce more every year and Trey says there’s often a disconnect between the food eaten and the farm it came from.
“While consumers are becoming more knowledgeable, 90 percent of people these days are two generations removed from the farm itself; that’s why we’re making it a priority to educate people on the truth,” he says.
Braswell Foods is a member of the American Egg Board (AEB), an organization that connects American egg farmers with consumers and has coined the phrase: incredible, edible egg.
“We take measures that larger public companies aren’t going to take, because it’s not all about numbers,” says Trey. “The numbers have to be good, but it’s not all about that. We seek to serve the communities we’re in and customers and vendors through relationships that exceed just doing business.”
It certainly helps that the company has been growing these relationships for four generations. Trey, who recently married, says he hopes this will continue into the fifth generation and so on.
“We’re family-owned and always want to be, every day we seek to honor the Lord with what we do and we take care of our people, who are our true competitive advantage,” he measures.
From generation to generation, Braswell Foods has been committed to innovation and operational excellence, striving to provide the highest quality egg and feed products to its customers.