Phils Fresh Eggs in Forreston, Illinois is a family run, second generation, cage-free egg productions facility. Started in the late 1950’s by Phil Wubbena, Phil’s Fresh Eggs developed and pioneered the cage-free egg production model that is utilized around the world today. His son Rod and his wife maintain the farm today as well as the family legacy of 100% cage-free, naturally-fed chickens. Rod runs the farm at the original property in Forreston, Illinois.
The farm began as a dairy production facility in the 1950’s. After dairy farming for several years, Phil decided to try his hand at raising chickens and purchased a complete chicken raising “kit” from a local supplier. It included barns, feed and animals. Some of the original buildings are still standing today.
Feeling that he could improve on the conventional production methods of the time, Phil began to experiment with different systems experiments which eventually developed into what we refer to today as the cage-free production process.
According to Rod there was a serious learning curve, lots of trial and error, and lots of hard work. “We had four kids in the family. I remember not playing sport or participating in after school activities but rather coming home from school, gathering eggs, feeding pullets and helping at whatever chore I could,” Rod said. “After going away to college I came back to the farm to work and my wife and I eventually purchased the land from my Dad in 2002.”
Making Phil’s unique is their commitment to feeding their hens healthy feed. One of Rod’s favorite sayings is “you are what you eat.” He believes that what holds true for people holds true for chickens, too. Phil’s grows and roasts its own corn and soybeans for chicken feed, combining these grains with the highest-quality natural ingredients such as alfalfa and kelp.
“We had a case where we were using soybeans processed outside of our farm and something got into the system and contaminated the grain. Not knowing it was tainted we fed it to our hens and lost a lot of birds. My father was very concerned and disheartened. He began to experiment with growing and roasting our own soybeans. We were probably the first farm in the nation to have a grain roaster, a practice we still use today,” Rod said.
Phil’s also never compromises its standards with less expensive feed or ingredients, producing a consistently wholesome flavor in their eggs.
Phil’s Fresh Eggs first began to sell their humanely raised eggs to the Chicago market in the 1960’s before anyone had even heard the term “animal welfare.” “In the 1970’s as the health food trend began to become more mainstream, small independent stores began to pick up Phil’s products. The real break came in the 1980’s when the general public became interested in a healthier more naturally raised egg,” Rod said. “Consumers felt that our eggs simply tasted better and began to search them out,” he added.
Phil’s Fresh Eggs has never been about cutting corners to make a profit and still distinguishes themselves from other cage-free producers. According to Rod, “To be clearer, “mainstream” to me represents cage-free producers with nothing more than marketing in their motives. Conventional production with large economies of scale is frequently subsidizing large cage-free complexes these days. Sustainable family farming is a foundation our country must not forsake.”
“It’s an ongoing learning process for us,” said Rod. “We are very interested in sustainable agriculture and are constantly researching and refining the latest methods for producing grain and raising hens. But in the end it really comes down to common sense, common sense about animals and what they need.”
Phil Wubbena worked for over 50 years experimenting and refining commercial cage-free egg production and marketing. Phil was a pioneer in his field back at a time when no one knew what animal welfare meant. He practiced it because he had a love of animals and believed there was a better way – even if the mainstream egg industry was headed in a quite different direction. His humane concerns and healthier feeding methods were years ahead of its time and match today’s consumer preferences for food that is produced closer to nature’s simple ways.
Phil’s Fresh Eggs can be found in large grocery chains as well as natural food markets in the Midwest.
For information on where to find other Certified Humane® products in your area, visit the “Shop” page of HFAC’s website.