Andrew and Vikki Govier, and their daughters Rosie and Lottie, are part of a small group of farmers whose Longstock Gold hens lay our No.1 eggs

‘Scrambled, boiled, poached or fried, the taste is fantastic’

“The first thing anyone would notice about our hens is how beautiful they are,” says Andrew Govier. “They’re all different colours – black, brown, white and speckled – and very pretty to look at.

“The Longstock Gold is a unique variety, bred especially for Waitrose. It’s a mixture of the Araucana, which gives the majority of the shells a distinctive blue-green colour, and the Blacktail and Maran birds, which produce larger eggs. They’re nice to work with too, very calm and placid.

“Like all the hens that lay Waitrose eggs, they’re free range, but they have about a third more space than the industry standard for free range birds, both inside and outside. We go down and let them out first thing in the morning, and as soon as we open the pop holes, they’re off and gone. We’ll go in and get the eggs then – we pick up every single one by hand, which is quite laborious, but it means we can make sure only those that make the grade go to the packers.

‘They enjoy being outside. They don’t usually come in until it’s dark, which can mean a very long day for us’

“If it’s very sunny or very windy, the birds might go back indoors, but otherwise they love being outside – even in really horrible winter weather. They’ve got trees out on the range and, as well as grass, we’ve tilled wild bird seed as a cover crop. They just enjoy packing and scratching around out there. They don’t usually come in until it’s dark, which can mean a very long day for us in June and July. If it’s a moonlit night, they might not decide to wander in until 11pm. But that’s part of giving them a natural life, so you just have to be patient.

“We feed them a special four-grain diet, with maize, barley, wheat and oats, together with extracts from paprika and marigold, which gives the yolks a lovely bright colour. You really notice the difference from a normal egg. And the taste is fantastic – scrambled, boiled, poached or fried, these are really good eggs.”