Alternative egg production in Canada

by Ryan McCarthy
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Egg Farmers of Canada pledge to transition to cage-free housing systems for laying hens.
More than 1,000 egg farms in Canada will transition to cage-free housing system for laying hens.

OTTAWA, Ontario – The trend toward cage-free egg production is widespread in the US food supply chain and the movement is becoming prevalent among Canadians as well.

Egg Farmers of Canada announced that more than 1,000 egg farms in Canada will be moving away from conventional production and housing and into something that helps hen welfare, human health, environmental impact and food production sustainability.

"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," said Peter Clarke, Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada.

This major shift will yield an almost 50 percent restructuring of housing as early as eight years from now and includes a commitment to cease the installation of any new conventional housing.

Presently about 90 percent of egg production is in conventional housing. The other 10 percent or so is in enriched housing, free-run, aviary or free-range. Under this plan the industry expects to achieve a 50-50 percent mix and 85 percent (alternative production) in 15 years.

The goal is to have all enriched housing, free-run, and aviary or free-range by 2036 assuming the current market conditions continue.

“Egg Farmers of Canada is proud to represent egg farmers across all systems and to offer consumers choice when it comes to eggs,” Clarke said. “We are about to take our already high-performing industry and best practices in production to even higher levels.”
 
The announcement went on to talk about how this policy with stakeholders and consumers will benefit from enriched housing that is not understood outside of the industry. These include food safety, the minimization of mortality, cannibalism, and other aggressive behaviors (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 committed to research, both around production practices and consumer preferences and to ensuring evidence-based decision-making when it comes to industry practices,” Clarke concluded.

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