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In BC we have over 149 egg farms and each and every one is family owned and operated. Our farmers raise almost 3.4 million hens province wide and produce over 91 million dozen eggs a year.
While the Fraser Valley is home to just over 80% of our egg farms, BC Egg helps improve the province’s food stability by ensuring that new farms are encouraged on Vancouver Island and in the Interior and northern regions of the province. Currently we have farms in the Peace Region and Terrace, in Creston, in the Okanagan and Shuswap, throughout the Fraser Valley, and on Vancouver Island from Nanoose Bay to Lake Cowichan to Sooke!
While farm size ranges from 3,000 hens to 141, 000, our average farm size in BC is 22,881 hens. By contrast, an average egg farm in the US houses over 1 million birds! In addition, our system of Supply Management ensures that no one farmer can hold too large a percentage of BC’s overall egg supply. This also helps ensure that our farms are kept small, manageable, and family (rather than factory) owned.
In BC we have five different types of egg production – conventional, enriched, free run, free range and organic – which result in different eggs for consumers to choose from at the grocery store. Consumer demand helps inform what type of eggs our farmers produce and as demand for cage-free eggs (free run, free range and organic) increases, more and more farms switch to this type of housing for their hens. In BC, 8.1 percent of our hens are in free run housing, 9.8 percent are free range, 10.3 percent are organic, while 27 percent are in enriched housing and 44.8 percent are in conventional housing.
Conventional (sometimes called classic) and enriched eggs are the eggs that go into your basic grocery store brand cartons and are the least expensive eggs to buy as they are the most economical to produce.
Canada has made a commitment to hen welfare and is phasing out conventional cages, replacing them with innovative enriched housing, or cage-free housing. By 2036 all conventional cages will have been replaced. Currently, BC is well on its way to achieving that goal with just 44.8% of our hens left in conventional cages and almost 30% of our hens in cage-free housing.
One of the challenges in the move to end conventional egg farming is that newer housing systems take up more space so they require bigger barns to be built and more land to be acquired for the farms. These modifications take time, which is why the transition has a target completion date of 2036.
Here’s a visual comparison of the amount of space needed to house 22,881 hens (BC’s average flock size) in each of BC’s different egg farm housing types.
Making the transition from conventional cages to a different type of housing is not a simple process. Often, the older barns need to be replaced entirely, but sometimes they can be retrofitted to accommodate a new housing type. Planeview Farms invited us onto their farm to take a look at what’s involved in transitioning an older barn to new, enriched housing.
Watch as they take us inside their renovation!
Want to learn more about the different hen housing types on BC egg farms? Check out the Hen Housing section of our website!
All BC egg farmers are inspected and audited regularly. In fact, their ability to hold quota and sell their eggs relies on passing their inspections and following the rules that the BC Egg Marketing Board sets to ensure the health and well being of the hens and of the egg production system in BC. The system of Supply Management gives us a unique opportunity to be able to enforce standards of care consistently across BC in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. These standards of care are research based and evolve as we strive to learn more and continually improve egg farming in BC – for the hens, the farmers, and the consumers.
Farms undergo four different inspections, or audits: one for Biosecurity, one for Animal Care, one for Food Safety (called “Start Clean-Stay Clean”), and a test for Salmonella Enteritidis. Because we’re committed to transparency and accountability, the results of those audits are posted here on our website. Each farm has a Farm Profile page where their audit scores, as well as their egg production type and other information about their farm, can be found. Audit Inspectors (auditors) work with the farmers to help them identify problem areas (if any) and to create an action plan to address any issues or deficiencies. The farmer then commits to a timeline for corrections and the auditor follows up to review those corrections and ensure changes were made to meet the required standards.
Start Clean – Stay Clean (SC-SC) is an on-farm food safety program designed to ensure that eggs come from a farm safe and ready for us to consume. The goal of the program is to reduce, prevent or eliminate potential biological, chemical or physical hazards through good management practices and operating procedures. Farms are inspected regularly to ensure all the rules outlined in the SC-SC program are followed.
A farmer’s score on this inspection is shown as a percentage and reflects any areas that may need additional attention. Auditors schedule follow-up appointments to rectify any outstanding issues.
Some of the particular areas that the SC-SC program monitors are the farmer’s record keeping for barn temperature and air quality, cleanliness of the barn and egg room, egg collection and egg storage.
Canada has some of the highest food safety standards in the world and our on-farm programs help ensure that occurrences of food-borne illness are extremely rare and that our egg quality is top-notch!
Every BC egg farmer loves animals and wants to provide excellent care for his/her hens. In addition, BC egg farms are strictly regulated to ensure the hens receive the best care possible. The Animal Care Program is a comprehensive, national program that provides standards on hen housing, animal husbandry practices, flock monitoring, and barn environment. Farms are inspected regularly by trained auditors to ensure their compliance with the program guidelines and that they maintain good record keeping. A farmer’s score on this review is shown as a percentage. If an area is identified as needing improvement, follow-up inspections are made to ensure any concerns are promptly resolved. The program is based on the Code of Practice developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council.
Keeping a flock safe from disease is an important part of egg farming. We use the term “biosecurity” to describe the lengthy list of health and safety protocols used on every egg farm in BC to help protect the health and safety of our flocks. Farm biosecurity is an integrated set of measures that aim to minimize the risk of harmful pathogens to the hens and to limit the ways disease might be introduced into a flock. Farms are inspected regularly to ensure their risk management practices meet the program requirements. The auditors also help identify potential points of risk, so farmers may address these before a problem arises.
Some of the particular biosecurity measures that farmers follow include: changing coveralls and footwear before entering and leaving a barn, cleaning all equipment used in a barn before it’s used in a different barn, sanitizing the barn between flocks, monitoring visitors and limiting access to the farm, preventing access of rodents and pests to the barn and to the hen feed, and sanitizing the tires of vehicles that leave the farm.
Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) is a bacterial pathogen that can be transferred via live poultry and eggs, causing potential illness in humans. BC egg farms take specific steps to mitigate the risk of SE developing in their flocks by following strict biosecurity measures and receiving frequent microbiological sampling to determine the presence of SE in the barn. Auditors test the barn (floor, walls, equipment etc.) for SE because the pathogen must be present in the living space before it can be transferred to the hens or eggs. If we catch SE in this early stage, we greatly reduce the risk of it ever harming a person. There is a national zero-tolerance policy for SE and standardized control actions are in place in the occurrence of a SE positive flock. The results are displayed in the Audit Score as pass/fail. A pass indicates that no Salmonella Enteritidis has been detected and the flock has a clean bill of health.
If a flock or barn tests positive for Salmonella Enteritidis, eggs from that barn are immediately sent to an egg processor as a precaution. The processor will break the eggs and pasteurize the contents to kill any SE bacteria that may be present and make the eggs safe for use in other food products.