Ruud Zanders is an unlikely candidate to be running a farm producing the world’s first carbon-neutral eggs.
In 2007 Mr Zanders ran a family-owned Dutch poultry business which at its peak had more than 120 employees, owned millions of chickens and operated in markets around the world. In the same year, a combination of bird flu and a looming financial crisis caused the company to go bust. He lost his home and was forced to rethink the principles of intensive farming and its impact on the environment.
Today he is the proud owner of Kipster, which he describes as “the most animal-friendly and environmentally-friendly poultry farm in the world”. It is a far cry from the export-dominated agricultural powerhouses — such as Mr Zanders’s former business — that the Netherlands is famed for.
Despite being the 32nd largest country in Europe by area — smaller than Ireland or Switzerland — the Netherlands is, according to the Dutch national statistics office, the world’s second largest food exporter by value after the US. This achievement has long been a source of national pride in a country that was ravaged by food shortages during the second world war.
Yet there are dissenting voices, and Mr Zanders’s is one of them. Along with a growing number of politicians and green activists, he is a vocal opponent of the intensive agricultural practices that have made the country an exporting giant.