Canadian approach to developing codes of practice something to be proud of.
By Brett Ruffell
It’s no secret egg producers face big changes on the horizon. Chief among those is transitioning away from conventional housing over the next 15 years, as outlined in the recently updated code of practice.
Indeed, egg farmers have some important and expensive decisions to make. Should you convert to enriched cages or go the none-cage route? What will the different systems mean for you and your hens? To help you arrive at the best answer for your business, we’ve included a new resource with this issue of Canadian Poultry titled “Phasing Out Conventional: An egg producer’s guide”.
The supplement includes valuable insights from a range of experts. Producers who’ve already converted discuss their experiences and offer tips. Also, researchers share evidence on what different housing options mean for you and your hens.
While working on this guide, I heard people from across the board describe Canada’s model for developing codes of practice as the gold standard. “It’s a pretty unique system and one to be proud of,” a poultry researcher said of the National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) process.
A few things set it apart. Most importantly, the council uses what general manager Jackie Wepruk describes as a bottom-up approach. While the EU, for example, employs a top-down process where farmers have limited input, NFACC empowers producers to be an important part of the solution.
For instance, four egg farmers were on the layer code development committee, including chair Glen Jennings. What’s more, the public consultation period gave producers another opportunity to have their voices heard. “It’s important that farmers buy in because they’re the ones who implement it,” Wepruk says, noting that its codes aren’t regulations.
The council also brings a broad range of stakeholders to the table to try to avoid the adversarial environment seen stateside. “South of the border, you see groups that have entrenched themselves against the use of anything but cage-free systems,” Wepruk says.
“We’ve bought into the notion that the lives of animals are enhanced when people work together as opposed to seeing each other as opponents,” she continues.
To foster a collaborative, productive environment, NFACC takes a multi-stakeholder approach. For instance, a 17-person committee worked on updating the layer code. The team included producers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, transporters, egg processors, veterinarians and government officials. A five-person scientific committee supported the group.
There were no votes. Instead, committee members had to reach a consensus. Jennings says that while there were challenges coming to an agreement, the group was able to form a consensus through mutual education and negotiation. For instance, some on the animal welfare side originally insisted on free-range housing only. “After educating them as to why that’s impossible, they agreed,” he says.
There was also some give-and-take with regards to the timeline. Welfare groups wanted to phase out conventional quicker while egg producers wanted more time. The group met in the middle. While he praises the collaborative process, Jennings acknowledges that some producers who’d just installed a new conventional system were shocked by the timeline. “You can’t make everyone happy but you try to make it as reasonable as possible,” he concludes.