In February of 2014, Egg Farmers of Alberta launched the Canadian egg industry’s first environmental program. The Producer Environmental Egg Program (PEEP) is intended to help egg farmers better identify their impacts on the environment and facilitate the use of best practices.
PEEP provides information about the impacts of on-farm activities and helps to establish goals for improvement. The PEEP assessment is focused on key impact areas such as energy use, water consumption and manure management, which helps farmers identify and address environmental risks and opportunities, to improve their carbon footprint.
As an organization, EFA is asked by our partners to verify and validate that egg farmers in Alberta are operating sustainability. Consumers are asking for freshness and fair value, which the egg industry is able to ensure via the supply management system.
Consumers also demand that their eggs come from hens raised in a welfare-friendly manner, and we have a long history with Egg Farmers of Canada and the Animal Care Program. Our farmers voted to make a passing grade in this program mandatory – and in order to pass, producers must have a minimum score of 90%.
As a national industry we also have the Start Clean – Stay Clean program, which is in place to assure consumers that their eggs are safe. Alberta made accreditation in the on-farm food safety program mandatory for farmers as well, and we have worked over the past five years to bring the average score on the program just shy of 99%.
In the fall of 2011, the EFA Board felt it was necessary to also demonstrate that eggs are being produced in an environmentally sustainable way, in order to meet the three-legged stool criteria for sustainability: social, economic and environmental, and so they established a strategy for EFA to develop an on-farm environmental program.
The Producer Environmental Egg Program (PEEP) was launched at EFA’s AGM in February 2014. It was the first program of its kind in Canada. The program is intended to help farmers better identify their impact on the environment and promote the increased use of best practices. Most egg farmers are already good stewards, however, PEEP provides them with the information about impacts of their activities on their operation that they may not have been aware of, and gives them goals and targets for gradual improvement.
The on-farm PEEP assessment, which is conducted once per year, helps farms identify and address environmental risks and opportunities in their operation. The program covers four key areas of environmental stewardship: water use, waste disposal, manure management and energy use.
Importantly, PEEP is also a way that EFA and the provincial egg industry can communicate an “environmental scorecard” to consumers and other stakeholders. Each year when EFA publishes its annual Sustainability Report, an update is provided on the average PEEP score and the number of farmers achieving the passing 60% score. It is important to note that PEEP encourages farmers to go beyond minimum requirements, with top marks being reserved for farmers that achieve aspirational goals.
When EFA first launched the program in 2014, the average score was 60%. Today, just 4 years later, the average score is hovering around 80%. This 20% increase represents a marked improvement that demonstrates the commitment Alberta egg farmers have to environmentally sustainable egg production.