On behalf of the more than 1,000 Canadian egg farms in operation, Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) has officially announced the start of what it calls “a coordinated, systematic, market-oriented transition from conventional egg production toward other methods of production for supplying eggs.” This announcement comes at a time when many high-profile food companies and restaurant chains have publicly committed to making an eventual shift toward only using cage-free eggs in their supply chains.
According to an EFC press release, their collective approach aims to take hen welfare, human health, environmental impact and food production sustainability all into account.
“In response to the best available scientific research and in light of changing consumer preferences, I’m pleased that the entire industry has agreed to an orderly transition plan that will further diversify our production practices,” says Peter Clarke, chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada. “We see immense potential to leverage research and innovation to achieve the best possible outcomes across all factors of sustainable food production, which includes everything from environmental impacts to food affordability.”
The EFC says this significant shift is expected to yield an almost 50-per-cent restructuring in as early as eight years from now, and includes a commitment to stop the installation of any new conventional housing. Currently, about 90 per cent of egg production is in conventional housing; while the other 10 per cent or so is in enriched housing, free-run, aviary or free-range.
Under the plan, which will be overseen by a national working group in collaboration with the entire egg supply chain, the industry expects to reach about a 50/50 mix in eight years, and about 85 per cent alternative production in 15 years.
The expectation is that all production will be in enriched housing, free-run, aviary or free-range by 2036, assuming the current market conditions prevail.
Because the market, affordability for consumers, pullet rearing and other supply chain aspects, resource implications, and a number of construction and equipment realities all must be factored in, these projections represent a realistic forecast of what is achievable, according to the EFC.
Alongside this announcement, the industry also hopes to discuss the benefits of enriched housing, which do not seem to be widely understood outside of the industry, with stakeholders and consumers. These include food safety, the minimization of mortality, cannibalism, and other aggressive behaviours (hens flock together and enjoy small groups), ensuring adequate feed and water for all (hens have a pecking order), human health and the lowest possible environmental impacts.
“Egg Farmers of Canada is proud to represent egg farmers across all systems and to offer consumers choice when it comes to eggs,” says Peter Clarke, Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada. “We are about to take our already high performing industry and best practices in production to even higher levels.”