Vince Booker had been in the egg and chicken business since childhood, so not long after college he was ready to get cracking and put his experience to work. In 1976, he founded Country Charm as a small egg distribution company. Today, Country Charm produces and distributes more than 444 million eggs each year.
More than 1.1 million laying hens are kept on the company’s state-of-the-art farm in Banks County, and the company contracts with area farmers to care for another 400,000 hens. The average hen produces approximately 260 eggs annually.
The millions of eggs originating from Country Charm start with healthy laying hens.
“We are partners in our own hatchery and feed mill, which gives us control of the quality of both the chick and the feed,” says Brent Booker, president, who has followed in his father’s footsteps.
Controlling quality means keeping the hens healthy and properly nourished.
“There’s a misconception about the poultry industry regarding steroids and hormones,” Booker says. “That’s just not true. No hormones or steroids are allowed in raising chickens. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits it, and more importantly, we are committed to keeping our hens healthy and producing high-quality eggs.”
Once the hens do their jobs, the eggs move through a series of conveyor belts to be washed, sanitized, weighed, graded and separated into the medium, large, extra large and jumbo categories typical of grocery store displays. The packaging ranges from the common dozen to cartons of either six or 18. The packaged eggs are stored in a 45-degree cooler and either shipped to customers or, in some cases, picked up at the plant. Country Charm’s customers include Eggland’s Best, Publix, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
Booker says demand for eggs is seasonal.
“October through Easter is our busiest time of the year,” Booker says. “That’s when people are cooking and baking for the holidays and the demand for eggs is high. Every hen we have is laying at that time of the year. Summer is usually our slowest time of the year so that’s when we are changing out the flocks and taking the older birds out of production.”
The growing national appetite for whole, nutritious foods bodes well for the egg business, Booker says.
“Eggs are an affordable high-quality protein,” he says. “Eggs are the protein all others are measured against. There’s no processing, so it’s a very natural product. Just break the shell.”
Eggs rank fourth in Georgia farm commodities, with a 2011 farm gate value of $568 million. The state ranks in the top 10 nationally in total egg production, producing 4.29 billion eggs in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.