Rab McNeil’s Week:
As someone shortly about to look after friends’ hens for a fortnight, I have taken of late an unaccustomed interest in eggs. However, my new egg-harvesting career might have a short shelf-life as robots begin to play an increasing role in the business.
That’s certainly the case on one 2,000-acre farm in Strichen, Aberdeenshire, from where Farmlay Eggs supplies the controversial ovoid comestibles to heap-big supermarkets such as Morrison, Aldi, Lidl and Tesco.
Farmlay recently shelled out £3.5 million on a new grading facility, with five robots scuttling hither and quite possibly yon to do the business: two to load eggs onto the grader and move pallets for cleaning; two to pack filled cartons into boxes; and one to stack the pallets. Sounds like they’ve cracked it there.
So the robots are mainly involved in packing, while my irreplaceable skills will include talking to the beasts, feeding them treats, mucking them out, wrestling with foxes, and patrolling my friends’ demesne with a gimlet eye.
No job for machines. To give them their due, the robots will be dealing with four million eggs a week, whereas I shall be juggling with around 12, which I will be frying, scrambling and boiling for breakfast and, doubtless, the occasional lunch. And make no mistake about it: my eggs will be as organic as muck.
Interestingly, or indeed otherwise, the BBC has reported on a growing trend for bespoke eggs from “heritage breeds” of hens that live pampered lives on luxury farms, swanning (if that is the correct avian term) around grassy pastures and eating vegan nosh. Occasionally, they deign to drop the odd egg: no pressure.
Royal Legbar hens are “descended from the Araucana breed” – glad we cleared that one up – and their produce is punted on the Ocado food delivery website, which boasts that they are true blue eggs. And it’s true: they are blue.
According to the British Egg Industry Council, 12.6 billion eggs were eaten in the UK last year, with retail sales rising 5%. Health scares, thankfully, are a thing of the past. So I look forward to enjoying my lard-fried eggs with chips, beans and sausages.
Keeping to the pabulum theme, we turn to the never knowingly dull world of bananas.
Figures from the Government’s waste advisory body WRAP (motto, if you can get your head round it: “at the forefront of the circular economy”) show that Britons bin 1.4 million bananas every day because they have minor bruising, black marks or green bits on the skin (the bananas, not the Britons). In case it slipped by you, I run that figure past you again: 1.4 million. A day.
The cost of bunging so many bananas binwards has been put at £80 million a year. Crikey, how do you like dem apples?
Supermarket giant (is there any other kind? Any supermarket midgets out there?) Sainsbury’s has decided enough is enough, and is taking unsold bananas and bludgeoning them into bread and muffins made by their bakeries. They are urging consumers to do the same if they are frightened to eat the fruit straight out of the skin.
Sounds challenging. Other innovative ideas for unloved ‘nanas include using them for smoothies and drying them as chips. Splendid. This column has neither strong principles nor any kind of ideological bent. However, It is our heartfelt belief that Britons are not making the most of their bananas. Remember: bananas are not just for Christmas. Please eat them responsibly.
Turning from solids (even if potentially squishy ones) to liquids, we were intrigued to hear advice to staff from the new chief executive of Coca-Cola Co. To wit: please make mistakes.
James Quincey averred that fear of failure led to inaction, and that it was better to have a go than never to have gone at all. “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough,” he thundered gently.
This was Motorhead to my ears. I cannot begin to tell you how many bosses I have tried explaining this to over the years, and still their response was always the same: “You’re fired.” Well, the egg’s on the other cheeks now, you schmucks.
Quite frankly, if it’s good enough for the chief executive of Coca Cola, it’s almost good enough for me. Make no mistake about it.
Hats off to The Motley Fool, financial content provider for USA Today, which calculated that the 15% corporate tax rate proposed by President Derek Trump – is it Derek? Desmond? – would have saved Apple $6.5 billion dollars last year, enough to buy 812.5 million “Make America Great Again” caps at Walmart. Sure is a lot of millinery to get your head around.