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Canadian egg farmers use a variety of different systems to house their hens. Each temperature controlled barn provides hens with a clean environment, access to fresh food and water, and protection from natural predators.
Conventional housing is a cage system that separates the hens and eggs from their waste, allows for easy monitoring of the hens’ health, and results in high food safety.
Enriched housing is larger than conventional housing and allows more space per hen. It is also equipped with perches and nesting boxes to provide hens with privacy when laying their eggs.
Free run housing provides hens access to the entire barn floor area where they can perch, scratch, forage and lay their eggs in nesting areas. Some of these barns are also equipped with multi-tiered aviaries.
Free range housing is similar to free run except it also allows hens access to the outdoors.
In organic production, hens are fed certified organic feed and never given any antibiotics. The hens are given even more space per bird than in other systems, and access to the outdoors. Organic producers also have an extra layer of oversight as they are certified organic by a third-party auditor.
Eggs are one of Mother Nature’s most nutrient-dense foods and BC egg farmers work hard to ensure hens receive a balanced diet consisting of grains, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. Egg farmers follow feed regulations set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), part of these regulations state that steroids and hormones are not approved for use in Canada. A hen’s diet can change the colour of the egg’s yolk. Wheat-based diets make pale yellow yolks while corn-based diets produce darker yolks. While yolk colour can range from pale yellow to deep orange it does not affect the flavor, nutrient value or quality of the egg.
Feed also plays an important role in specialty eggs:
Hens are never given hormones. Since the 1960’s, it is illegal in Canada to give hormones or steroids to hens that lay eggs. Any antibiotics or medications are only given under the direction of a veterinarian. If any hens become ill, their eggs are diverted away from public consumption until the hens are well again. Young laying hens are vaccinated for the same reason we vaccinate our children: to prevent specific diseases. This is true for all types of Canadian grade A eggs available at grocery stores.