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Shortened timeline on cage-free birds [David Schmidt]

APRIL 2017 | VANCOUVER – Last year was significant for egg producers as it marked the start of the industry’s move out of conventional cage layer production systems.

It is the “beginning of a long process,” Egg Farmers of Canada chair Peter Clarke told local producers at the BC Egg Marketing Board annual meeting in Vancouver on March 3.

While Clarke suggested a 20-year time frame for the transition, BCEMB chair Brad Bond believes it will be much shorter. Although he did not attend the annual meeting, Bond’s written report to growers noted the change to cage-free “was accelerated by some national brands saying they would offer only cage-free eggs within 10 years and then the Retail Council of Canada stated their larger grocery members would do the same within the same shortened period.”

It is still not clear what form “cage-free” housing will take.

“We’re committed to promoting enriched housing as one of the options,” Clarke stated, with EFC CEO Tim Lambert adding EFC is launching a joint study with the World Wildlife Fund on the environmental impact of different housing systems.

Lambert said the WWF is concerned about how much valuable wildlife habitat could be lost to farming if egg production becomes 100% cage-free.

On a more positive note, both Clarke and Bond noted the industry is enjoying a period of unparalleled growth.

“At the end of the day, the Canadian egg industry is thriving,” Clarke stated. “It has been a decade of growth for all sectors of the business. We have seen 28.7% growth, adding 4.8 million hens since 2006.”

Bond noted BC received a 10.4% increase in quota allocations in the past two years, boosting BC egg production from just under 71.5 million dozen in 2015 to almost 80.5 million dozen in 2016. The outlook for 2017 is even higher as not all the increased quota has hit retail shelves.

“It takes about 18 months to get quota increases to the grocery shelf,” he pointed out.

Much of the increase is in specialty categories, in which BC leads the nation. However, Clarke claims there is still “not a lot of consumer uptake” for cage-free egg production. Most consumers still choose lower-priced conventionally-produced white eggs – so much so that there is now a looming shortage of the base product.

The BCEMB also used the annual meeting to announce its producer of the year. The program was initiated over a decade ago to recognize producers who scored well in the Start Clean Stay Clean food safety and Flock Care animal welfare programs. After just about every producer ended up qualifying for the award each year, the program was revamped last year to recognize only a single producer. Last year’s producer of the year, Jeff Bishop of Chilliwack, joined BCEMB vice-chair Jen Woike on stage to present the 2017 Producer of the Year award to Randy Dahl of Abbotsford.

Vol.103 Issue 4
APRIL 2017

CLBC April 2017 cover CLBC April 2017 Headlines