Representatives from Egg Farmers of Alberta attended the Calgary CO-OP AGM on March 13, 2013, when a non-binding motion was passed (59% of votes for) that encouraged the Calgary CO-OP Board of Directors to investigate the feasibility of phasing-out the sourcing of eggs from conventional cages over a 5-year period. Egg Farmers of Alberta views the passing of the amended motion at the Calgary CO-OP AGM on March 13, 2013, as an affirmation of consumer confidence in the direction that the Alberta egg industry is already heading. On February 26, 2013, at its AGM, a motion was passed giving direction to the Egg Farmers of Alberta’s Board of Directors to enact a policy that would begin to transition the Alberta egg industry away from conventional cages.
This has already been happening in Alberta for a number of years. In 2006, 98.5% of the province’s eggs came from hens housed in conventional cages, but that number was down to 85.8% by 2012. Also, in 2012, most farmers who either built new barns or renovated existing barns chose to install an alternative housing system such as enriched, free-run, aviary or free-range, all of which provide the hens with more space and greater freedom to express more natural behaviors.
Enriched housing systems are a viable option that fulfills the requirements of the CO-OP motion, while still being a cage-based housing system. This approach provides hens with more space to move around and flap their wings, while also providing enrichments within the cage, such as perches, scratch pads, dust baths and nesting boxes, which allow the hens to freely express a wide range of natural behaviors. Of course, Egg Farmers of Alberta are equally supportive of free-run, aviary and free-range systems, as alternatives to the conventional cage, since there is no single perfect system when it comes to either animal care or food safety. Ultimately, it’s the experience, skill and expertise of the farmer which has the greatest impact on the quality of care provided to the birds and the achievement of strict standards to ensure food quality and safety.
Egg Farmers of Alberta would also like to remind consumers that there are already a wide variety of eggs available at Calgary CO-OP and grocery stores across the province, including eggs from alternative housing systems. Any enriched, free-run, free-range or organic eggs already meet the criteria put forth in the Calgary CO-OP motion. Although these types of eggs only currently account for about 5% of the more than 33 million dozen eggs consumed by Albertans, according to Nielsen data, their sales are growing and Alberta’s egg farmers are well positioned to respond to market trends and adapt to changing consumer demand.
Egg Farmers of Alberta looks forward to working with Calgary CO-OP and their supply chain partners, to discuss the motion and continue working towards developing a framework that will be ethical, equitable, profitable and sustainable for all key stakeholders. Alberta egg farmers are proud of the world class quality of care they provide for their birds, are proud to be stewards of the land they farm and are proud to provide their fellow Albertans with a stable supply of safe, high quality, fresh, nutritious & delicious, locally produced eggs and egg products.