TORONTO – The grocery arm of the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), whose members include Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Wal-Mart Canada Corp., recently unveiled a 10-year plan to transition to sourcing cage-free eggs.

The group said it will voluntarily source eggs from hens living in cage-free housing systems by the end of 2025. David Wilkes, RCC senior vice president of government relations and the RCC’s grocery division, said in a statement that the decision was made “recognizing the restrictions created by Canada's supply management system and importantly this objective will have to be managed in the context of availability of supply within the domestic market.”

David Wilkes, Retail Council of Canada
David Wilkes, RCC senior vice president of government relations

“There have been significant discussions over the last several months among producers, processors, the scientific community and consumers regarding the best approach for raising hens,” Wilkes said. “These discussions have led to the announcement our members are making today, further demonstrating our commitment to providing Canadians with responsibly sourced food.”

The announcement follows one made in February by Egg Farmers of Canada, which pledged more than 1,000 egg farms in Canada will be moving away from conventional production and housing systems to enriched systems such as free-run, and aviary or free-range by 2036. The transition includes a commitment to cease installation of any new conventional poultry housing. The egg producer organization reiterated its commitment to a market-oriented transition away from conventional poultry housing.

“Our industry transition plan considers the growing body of scientific evidence pointing to the benefits of enriched housing, which allows hens to exhibit specific behaviors which may include perching, scratching, foraging, dust bathing and nesting,” the organization said in a statement. “The industry looks forward to discussing these important aspects, and the broader transition plan, with its supply chain and stakeholders as this process unfolds.”

The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) expects to release a new code of animal care for layer hens by the end of the year. The code will provide guidance to Canada’s egg producers in a number of areas, including recommendations and requirements for housing, care, transportation and processing among other animal husbandry practices.

“RCC remains firmly committed to the NFACC process and will work with other participants to not only advance our voluntary commitment to move to cage-free environments by the end of 2025, but also by ensuring suppliers adhere to the Code’s recommendations,” Wilkes said.