Glenn Hickman: Advancing Sustainability at Family’s Farm Enterprise

Hickman’s Family Farms revolutionizes the egg carton 
by Claire Natale

Glenn Hickman, president of Hickman’s Family Farms, comes from a long line of innovators.

In the 1940s, the first generation of Hickman’s Family Farms, Nell Hickman — along with her husband, Guy — began their backyard chicken coop with 500 chickens and a back-porch store. A savvy businesswoman, Nell used her hens’ freshly laid eggs for trade and extra income. Back then, acquiring produce and dairy was not as easy as it is today, but fresh eggs were in high demand. Nell built individual cages and coops to improve egg production and Hickman’s flock continued to grow.

In 1957, Nell and Guy’s son, Bill, married Gertie. With Gertie’s experience in her father’s store and time on her hands, she became a 50/50 partner with her mother-in-law and the women continued to expand the business. As the years went by, the flock grew by five children: Matt, Glenn, Billy, Clint and Sharman.

Today, Hickman’s Family Farms is led by Glenn, Billy, Clint and Sharman and is the largest egg producer west of the Rockies. In its fourth generation of Hickmans, the enterprise continues to innovate and expand while identifying that growing as a company means recognizing consumer needs. It is the fourth generation, in fact — Glenn’s and Billy’s sons — who have led Hickman’s recent expansion of cage-free options, opening its first cage-free facility in 2016.

For Hickman’s, adopting technology and automation has gone hand in hand with growth. The company has always prioritized sustainability and minimized waste by repurposing and recycling waste streams. Today, Hickman’s produces its own feed for hens, collects broken eggs for limestone and protein powder production, and turns manure into fertilizer that can be used in many applications, including treating organic lettuce greens.

Hickman’s most recent advancement has come in the form of a new egg carton. Always looking to become more environmentally conscious, Hickman’s began looking for ways to shorten packaging supply lines. Keeping sustainability in mind, Hickman’s sought to shake up an egg industry standard — the egg carton. Egg cartons have remained virtually unchanged since their debut. That is, until Hickman’s came along.

The 100-percent post-consumer recycled PET plastic egg carton debuted in 2016, and is the first of its kind in the egg industry. The carton uses about three recycled plastic soda bottles to make a 12-count egg container, and five bottles to make an 18-count container. The cartons save millions of water bottles and soda bottles from landfills each year and turn them into a practical, sturdy product that cuts down on waste.

For an egg producer, the carton is one of the most important parts of the business. Since Hickman’s has always striven to turn waste streams into a value-enhanced product, choosing recycled plastic for a new container was an easy choice. Perfecting the new carton didn’t come without challenges, but once completed, it was more durable than pulp or foam containers, resulting in less breakage — and therefore less egg waste. Plus, the transparent package allows consumers to see the eggs without opening the carton.

The new carton also gives Hickman’s Family Farms flexibility when it comes to packaging. The smooth surface allows Hickman’s to print and adhere labels for custom orders, reducing carton ordering costs and storage space — an added benefit to the company’s sustainability efforts.

At Hickman’s, the chicken and the egg come first. As Hickman’s Family Farms enters its 73rd year, the company will continue to improve sustainability and enhance the consumer’s egg purchasing experience.

Farm Fresh

  • Hickman’s Family Farms was founded in 1944.
  • Four generations of the family have worked at the farm or continue to work at the company today.
  • Hickman’s is the largest egg producer west of the Rockies.
  • Hickman’s produces 2 billion eggs in Arizona each year.
  • The company opened its first cage-free facility in 2016 and is continuing to build new barns and convert old facilities into cage-free environments.

 

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