The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, Little Herds, The Cook’s Nook, and Food Tank kicked off day one of The Future of Food @ SXSW in Austin, Texas, with a morning coffee chat: “Ethical Eggs and Planet Smart Business.”
Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg sat down with Jennifer Gregg, VP of Operations, to talk about how Vital Farms prioritizes the long-term benefits of each of its stakeholders, including farmers, communities, crew members, and the environment.
“As health was brought more into focus over the past couple of years, people really connected the dots and saw that what you put into your body matters,” Gregg says. Vital Farms partners with family farmers to produce humane, pasture-raised eggs, butter, and ghee across the United States.
“Eggs are the perfect protein. With a few dollars, you can have several meals,” Gregg tells Nierenberg. “And when people buy a Vital Farms product, they’re putting their dollars into more than just the eggs, they’re supporting our crew members and the environment.”
Gregg emphasizes that Vital Farms values the health and welfare of its people just as much as its animals. The company processes its own eggs at an 82,140-square-foot facility called Egg Central Station, which not only allows better control over its supply chain but also creates professional growth opportunities for crew members. It’s a Certified B Corporation and has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Austin for two consecutive years.
“Every decision we make considers how we’re taking care of our people,” says Gregg. “During the pandemic, we were able to find value in that culture we created. Our teams came to work every day and rallied in the hallways about ways they could feed families across America.”
According to Gregg, companies can support their crew by simply asking what they need and rallying behind it—rather than telling them what they need.
“We’re aligned around something much bigger than selling eggs,” Gregg says.
This philosophy extends to Vital Farms’ partnering farmers, too. The company’s staff visits communities across the pasture belt—an area located roughly between the Northeastern edge of Texas to the Eastern Seaboard—to talk about pasture-raising chickens with a higher standard of production.
Greggs says that for many farmers, transitioning to this way of farming not only feels better but allows them to make a more sustainable income to support their families in rural America. This is a mutually beneficial relationship for both farmers and the business.
“When a farmer is supported and their birds are productive, they have a better income stream and Vital Farms has a better supply,” says Gregg. This sort of interaction, support, and appreciation “doesn’t happen” in factory farming models of production, Greggs and Nierenberg agree.
“We can do good in the world, and we can also have great outcomes for our stakeholders. You don’t have to compromise success as a business because you’re raising the standard for animal welfare or caring for people,” says Gregg.
“Mission-driven companies are the ones that are going to survive,” says Nierenberg.