At the January Regional Meetings, EFA engaged egg farmers in conversation regarding what the long-term vision for mass depopulation should look like in Alberta. With changing requirements around mass depopulation, and increased emphasis during auditing of the Animal Care Program, EFA recognizes the importance of providing support to ensure that farmers have access to methods that work on their operation, meet welfare standards, and are scientifically defensible.

At each Regional Meeting, it was acknowledged that there is no perfect system, although some have had less challenges than others.  It was determined that if there were a perfect system, it would be:

  • Quick – both for the birds and for the workers
  • Well accepted by all stakeholders
  • Cost effective
  • Clean (including from a biosecurity perspective)
  • Linked to improved use of the birds

Key challenges on farm were then discussed, and the potential solutions that could address those challenges were brainstormed.  Key challenges consistently identified included:

  • Educating workers and slowing them down when needed
  • Catching birds, including labour and supervision, and challenges in loose housing systems
  • Speed
  • Cost (this primarily focused on capital cost)
  • Cleaning and disinfection and biosecurity
  • Inconsistency of application (ex. birds surviving process, freezing CO2 or equipment issues, gas leaking, weather, etc.)

Almost all of the identified challenges and solutions can be grouped into one of four categories: Policy, Technology, Financial Support, and Education.

Category Challenges Identified  Potential Solutions
Policy or Regulation
  • capital cost
  • understanding and meeting requirements / training workers
  • consistency of application
  • record keeping
  • management approval and getting workers on board / up to speed
  • home week
  • service provider
  • auditing / certification
Technology
  • evolving requirements / uncertainty
  • improving speed
  • research
  • investment
 Financial Support
  • consumable cost
  • labour hours
  • affordability
  • biosecurity / cleaning & disinfecting
  • improving speed
  • EFA to purchase equipment
  • EFA to offset cost of service or labour
  • developing value-added products
  • include in cost of production (COP)
 Education
  • management approval and getting workers on board / up to speed
  • consistency of application
  • training
  • workshops

As we continue to develop a strategy and make decisions as to where EFA can best invest to support producers in meeting welfare standards, we will need to consult other stakeholders including Government and welfare scientists. EFA knows that the most helpful way for producers to evaluate other approaches to mass depopulation is by talking directly to fellow egg farmers, who are already using different techniques – so talk it up!  Please let EFA know what you have learned and any ideas you have.  Each egg farmer who calls or emails EFA with specifics about what they have learned from two other producers using a different system from what they are currently using, will be entered into a draw to win a $50 Tim Horton’s gift card.  Please contact Jenna at the EFA office at 403-250-1197, ext.129.

At the meetings, farmers were provided with a chart of various methods, and their strengths and weaknesses. This chart has now been updated to include foaming, and is posted on the producer website under Animal Care – Best Practices – Humane Endings.