The new standards state that hens must have access to the range at least 120 days a year – and a day is a minimum of six hours. Farmers must document the number of days and hours a day hens have access to the outdoors.
“BC farmers have always given their free-range hens access to the outdoors on a regular basis; however, we did not have a verification system in place,” Katie Lowe, PAg, executive director of BC Egg, said in a press release. “These new standards mean that farmers have to document outdoor access and we will audit them to ensure they are meeting these basic standards.”
The standards, which were developed with the assistance of animal care specialists and farmers, state that hens must be given outdoor access when the temperature is between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius. If a farmer restricts outside access, he/she must have a letter from a vet stating why the access is restricted.
A common reason might be an illness in the flock that could be passed on to neighbouring farms if the hens were outside. Similarly, if B.C.’s Chief Veterinarian determines that the risk of a disease like Avian Influenza is too high, she may require that hens are kept inside.
The standards also dictate that the range must have grass, be free from debris, and not have anything that can attract wildlife (like food dishes). These standards are in addition to the standards outlined in the new Code of Practice of Care and Handling of Laying Hens.
“We are very proud to be the first in Canada to set these standards and make them mandatory for all free-range farmers in BC,” Lowe concluded. “Our farmers want to provide the best possible care for their hens and they know these standards will help them do just that.”
Within the next two decades every caged chicken on a B.C. farm will be re-housed. Just over five per cent of chickens in B.C. are already in the new cages, while 23 per cent of B.C. chickens already live cage-free, in free-run or certified-organic conditions. The board says B.C. has the highest percentage of cage-free hens in all of Canada. READ MORE
With more egg producers switching to cage-free production, farmers now need to understand and manage the dynamics of hen socialization and behavior in order to consistently achieve the healthiest and most productive flocks.
Keeping birds in cages limited activity and allowed the establishment of a social hierarchy inside the cage. Now, birds are free to interact with a larger group and are exposed to a wider range of conditions, which can cause antisocial behavior and lead to lower productivity.
Bird experts say the transition requires farmers to spend more time observing the flock’s behavior, understand what conditions are causing negative behaviors, and make the necessary adjustments to the environment.
Egg farmers are faced with three key behavior challenges: hens laying eggs outside of the nest, hens piling in one area or smothering one another, and generally aggressive behavior.
These negative behaviors often don’t manifest, or can’t be observed and understood, when walking the house during routine management. Farmers need to sit and watch for a few minutes to see how the birds behave and interact on their own. That way, farmers can better understand the specific challenges, what in the environment may be causing them, and how they can change the conditions to control them. READ MORE
Major supermarkets are committed to ending sales of caged eggs – and official figures show consumers are backing the move.
From October last year to June 35 million more free range eggs were produced by UK farmers than eggs from caged and barn-raised hens.
Canadian egg producers generated 64.5 million dozen eggs from May 2016 to May this year, said StatsCan.
Placement of hatchery chicks on farms rose four percent to 65.5 million birds from June 2016 to June 2017 and stocks of frozen poultry in storage decreased 9.3 per cent to 86,453 tonnes, from July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2017.
Manitoba produced 6.196 million dozen eggs in the May-to-May period, valued at C$10.641 million, compared to 3.084 million dozen (C$5.559 million) for Saskatchewan and Alberta produced 5.668 million dozen valued at C$10.574 million.
Animal protection groups argue it definitely is: Birds that are not confined to small wire cages can at least spread their wings and engage in natural behaviors like dust-bathing and perching, even if they never see the light of day.
But egg producers and researchers caution that the switch is not as simple as just opening those cage doors — and that mobility brings with it a new set of concerns for chickens’ welfare that most farmers have never confronted.
A major 2015 study of three different hen-housing systems found that mortality was highest among birds in cage-free aviaries and that they also had more keel bone problems. READ MORE
Canada’s codes of practice are nationally developed guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals. They serve as the foundation for ensuring that farm animals are cared for using sound management and welfare practices that promote animal health and wellbeing. Codes are used as educational tools, reference materials for regulations, and the foundation for industry animal care assessment programs.
“Canada’s more than 1,000 egg farmers are deeply committed to and strive for continuous improvements when it comes to the care and well-being of their hens,” said Roger Pelissero, chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada.
“Egg Farmers of Canada is a long-time supporter of the National Farm Animal Care Council. We value the leadership of the code committee and their dedication to evidence-based standards that serve as a key building block to our national animal care program,” he added.
NFACC’s code development process is a uniquely consensus-based, multi-stakeholder approach that ensures credibility and transparency through scientific rigour, stakeholder collaboration, and consistency. Updates to the layer code were led by a 17-person code committee comprised of egg farmers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, transporters, egg processors, veterinarians and government representatives. Aiding in their work was a five-person scientific committee that included research and veterinary expertise in laying hen behaviour, health and welfare. A public comment period was held in the summer of 2016 to allow the public and all stakeholders to provide input.
“The new code provides progressive standards for hen welfare in Canada,” said poultry welfare expert Dr. Ian Duncan, who represented the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the code committee. “We worked diligently for almost four years to secure these important new welfare commitments.”
Canada’s codes of practice are a powerful tool for meeting rising consumer, marketplace and societal expectations relative to farm animal welfare. Codes support responsible animal care practices and keep everyone involved in farm animal care and handling on the same page.
“The code of practice is an important tool for egg farmers across the country,” explains Glen Jennings, egg farmer and chair of the code development committee. “The new code is the result of four years of in-depth scientific evaluation and rigorous discussion. The outcome balances hen welfare, behaviour and health in a manner that is sustainable and achievable by farmers.”
The new layer code is available online at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/poultry-layers.
Despite a higher number of cases of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products during the hot summer months, researchers at the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences say the egg production process itself is not to blame for the increase in cases.
The findings are further evidence that the hygiene around egg handling in the supply chain and in household and restaurant kitchens is critical to reducing food poisoning from eggs.
Researchers conducted a study of four Australian commercial free range egg farms, with the results now published online ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
"Eggs and egg products have been associated with an increased risk of Salmonella contamination. Because the use of free-range eggs by consumers is on the rise, we felt it was important to better understand the risk factors at the production stage," says lead author Kapil Chousalkar, from the school of animal and veterinary sciences at the University's Roseworthy campus.
"Birds raised in the free range production system could potentially be exposed to weather extremes, and the free range environment is not as easily controlled as in cage egg production. Therefore, it has been assumed that hot weather has a role to play in the potential contamination of eggs at the site of free range egg production.
"Our results show that the types and levels of Salmonella found in and around free range egg farms, and on the eggs themselves, is highly variable, often dependant on the specific husbandry and management practices employed by each farm. However, we found that there was no direct association between hot weather and increased prevalence of Salmonella at the production stage, even when data was collected in the hottest month of February," Chousalkar says.
"This helps to reinforce a simple health safety message: that it's important for people to wash their hands before and after handling eggs, whether at home, in a restaurant, or while working in the supply chain."
The bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium – the most common cause of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products in Australia – was the second highest type of Salmonella found at free range egg production farms. The most prevalent, Salmonella Mbandaka, is generally not associated with egg or egg product-related food poisoning cases in Australia.
As well as renewing calls for people to practice good hand hygiene when using eggs, Chousalkar says there is a need for nationwide standards and uniform practices on the surveillance of egg contamination and safety.
"Currently, each of the states has their own food safety and surveillance programs. Because of its implications for public health, we believe the incidence of Salmonella contamination needs to be monitored in a standard way across all farms," he adds.
Modern layer diets have been refined to improve intake and efficiency. The implications of these strategies are diets with low fiber and overall structure. Poultry require a certain amount of fiber for optimal development and physiology of the gastrointestinal tract. Low fiber diets have negative consequences on the development and functioning of the gut, particularly the gizzard. Addition of insoluble fiber could be a practical solution of increasing diet structure.
In an interview, Dr. Kiarie explained the problem at hand. “It remains unknown whether it is beneficial to introduce fiber at the rearing phase or laying phase, or indeed both phases,” he said.
“Modern pullets have a propensity to reduce intake at the onset of lay. Stimulation of gut development at the pullet phase may lead to birds with improved appetite for satisfactory laying phase performance,” he said. “This may be particularly strategic for alternative housing where the birds may have increased nutrient requirements over and above normal maintenance and
still meeting the requirements for egg production.”
Diets will be designed with oat hulls to create feed structure and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, birds will be maintained on diets with or without the addition of oat hull. Gut and skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase and egg production and quality will be measured during the laying phase.
Limestone particle size
Proper skeletal development is essential for high levels of egg production in all poultry housing systems.
“Studies to improve skeletal health often focus on manipulating the birds’ environment and nutrition during the layer phase. Unfortunately, at this phase it might already be too late to improve bone quality,” Dr. Kiarie explained. “Earlier interventions by stimulating bone development at pullet stage could lead to a bird with sound skeletal structure for satisfactory laying phase performance in alternative housing.”
“Pullets undergo fast bone formation during rearing, and nutritional strategies during this phase could have a major impact on bone quality and skeletal integrity of hens,” he added.
The proposed research will evaluate the effect of limestone particle size on pullet skeletal development and subsequent effects on layer performance, bone health and integrity in hens housed in conventional and furnished cages.
Dr. Kiarie said the limestone particle size will be used as a method of manipulating the calcium supply form to create feed structure. Diets differing in limestone particle sizes will be formulated and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, bird diets will be maintained in conventional and furnished cage housing systems. Skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase. Egg production and quality and bone health and integrity will be measured during the laying phase.
“The long term objective is to explore nutritional means to improve gut health and function, skeletal integrity and feed utilization in pullets and layers,” said Dr. Kiarie in describing the anticipated outcomes of these studies. “Research results will be directly transferred into practice through partnerships with feed manufacturers and allied industries that serve the Canadian egg producers.”
Components of this research will be funded by the Egg Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Canada, and the Canadian Poultry Research Council.
McDonald’s announcement a year ago spurred a tidal wave through the food industry. Around 200 companies, including every major fast food chain and many major brands, have said they will go cage-free. Most of them target 2025 for completing the transition.
The Fortune article cites results from Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) research that examined three different hen housing systems – conventional cage, enriched colony and cage-free – and concluded there are positive and negative trade-offs with each.
Food beat writer Beth Kowitt cites that the CSES study considered the housing systems as a whole – worker health, animal health, food affordability, food safety and environmental impact, while activist groups focus solely on animal welfare. An excerpt: In the end, science wasn’t the deciding factor. The study intentionally excluded one component – consumer sentiment – and that turned out to be the most important of all. The phrase “enriched cage” means nothing to the average person. So if McDonald’s had shifted to that option, it wouldn’t get any credit from consumers. “Science was telling us enriched, but when talking with the consumer, they had no clue what enriched was,” says Hugues Labrecque, who runs the egg business that serves McDonald’s at Cargill. Once that became clear, cage-free became the inevitable consensus.
In a Forbes op-ed, contributor Steve Banker, who covers logistics and supply chain management, cites the Fortune article and analyzes what will have to happen in the marketplace in order for McDonald’s to meet its cage-free commitment by 2025. He concludes, “McDonald’s shows us that companies have a chance to do ‘good,’ where ‘good’ is defined in a way that resonates with their customer base….”
In a Forbes article back in May, “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert noted there currently is no United States Department of Agriculture legal definition for “cage-free” and that, “…transparency of what the term actually means will anger many as they discover their imagery of a happy-go-lucky hen running through the field is far from the truth.”
People with strong feelings about hen housing tend to bypass scientific studies such as that conducted by CSES. Food companies want to give customers what they want regardless of the science.
There are a number of barriers to consumers integrating scientific information into their decision-making process. The influence of group values, confirmation bias, scientific illiteracy, the tribal nature of online communication and other factors all pose challenges to successfully introducing technical information into the social conversation about food and agriculture.
Many of the barriers can be overcome by following the formula developed through CFI’s research. Establishing shared values opens the door for technical information to be introduced into the conversation. It begins by first identifying and then communicating values from a credible messenger. Only then can incorporating technical information be viewed as trustworthy, building on a message platform that encourages informed decision-making.
Building trust is a process. Authentic transparency and continued engagement will encourage objective evaluation of scientific information that supports informed decision-making. Encouraging informed decision-making requires meeting people in the communities where the discussions are taking place, acknowledging their scepticism and committing to long-term engagement.
The Center for Food Integrity
CFI is a not-for-profit organization whose members and project partners represent the diversity of today’s food system, from farmers and food companies to universities, non-governmental organizations to retailers and food processors.
Visit foodintegrity.org for more information.
Thanks to the efforts of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Livestock Research and Extension Branch and the University of Saskatchewan, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has approved the inclusion of 10 per cent Camelina cake in feed for egg-laying hens.
"This is another major step for Camelina production in Canada," says Jack Grushcow, founder and CEO of Smart Earth Seeds. "This latest approval makes the crop production economics for Camelina even more attractive. The more local markets we can develop for Camelina meal the greater the opportunity to process locally and provide regional economic development."
CFIA previously approved cold-pressed, non-solvent extracted Camelina meal for broiler chickens at up to 12 per cent inclusion. Another application is going forward to approve the inclusion of Camelina in dairy cattle rations.
"This is good news for Canadian poultry producers, this approval ensures Canadian producers can benefit from access to a high quality protein that also contains significant quantities of Omega-3 oil," says Rex Newkirk, chair in feed processing technology at the University of Saskatchewan.
"Increasing Camelina cake inclusions in layers' feed resulted in a dose-related increase in polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids and a superior balance of Omega-3:Omega-6 fatty acids in table eggs," adds Matt Oryschak and Eduardo Beltranena, who led the layer trials at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Camelina is a diversifying oilseed crop that offers greater disease and drought tolerance. It can be grown with low inputs on marginal land while providing valuable crop rotation benefits. Camelina cake is rich in protein, fibre and α-linolenic acid and its inclusion in feed for broiler chickens and laying hens will help produce value-added, healthier poultry products for Canadians.
June 30, 2016 - Egg Farmers of Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) have announced the launch of the public comment period on the draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers. The public comment period allows stakeholders - poultry producers, consumers and others with an interest in the welfare of laying hens - to view the draft Code and provide input to the final Code.
The draft revised Code is the result of the unique consensus-based, multi-stakeholder approach used across various agricultural sectors, which brings together all relevant stakeholders with responsibility for animal care standards.
“Egg Farmers of Canada is committed to continuous improvements and a high standard of care for laying hens in a manner that is sustainable and implementable by all farmers in Canada,” said Peter Clarke, Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada. “We value the National Farm Animal Care Council’s leadership and the rigorous, multi-stakeholder approach to developing the evidence-based standards that will enhance our national Animal Care Program,” he added.
Once finalized, the revised Code will promote sound management and welfare practices through recommendations and requirements for housing, care, transportation, and other animal husbandry practices. The process began in April 2012, using the NFACC Code development process. Egg Farmers of Canada initiated the review with the support of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council and Pullet Growers of Canada.
“The Code development process helps diverse communities work together to improve the lives of farm animals,” said poultry welfare expert Dr. Ian Duncan, representing the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the Code Committee. “We hope for broad participation in the public comment period. It’s an important opportunity to improve the quality and success of each Code.”
The draft Code and the public comment system is accessible at:www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/poultry-layers. All comments must be submitted through the online system. The public comment period closes on August 29, 2016. The Code Development Committee will consider the submitted comments after the close of the comment period and the plan is that the final layer Code of Practice will be released by the end of 2016.
A Scientific Committee report summarizing research conclusions on priority welfare topics for laying hens can be found online alongside the draft Code. This peer-reviewed report aided the discussions of the Code Development Committee as it prepared the draft Code of Practice. The report, developed by world-renowned animal welfare scientists, should be reviewed prior to making a submission.
The layer Code revision is led by a 17-person Code Development Committee that includes participants from across Canada including producers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, retailers, researchers, transporters, processors, veterinarians and government representatives. More information on the Code development process is available at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice.
The layer Code is one of five Codes of Practice being developed as part of a multi-year NFACC project. Codes of Practice serve as our national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended practices. It is important that Codes be scientifically informed, implementable by producers, and reflect societal expectations for responsible farm animal care. The Codes cover housing, feed and water, handling, euthanasia, transport and other important management practices.
In a release today, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) indicated that the timeline for ending the use of conventional cages has been accelerated, ending five years earlier than indicated by the Egg Farmers of Canada.
Funding for this project has been provided through the AgriMarketing Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal–provincial–territorial initiative.
August 11, 2016 - The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, in partnership with The Center for Food Integrity in the US (CFI), convened an Animal Care Review Panel to analyze an undercover animal rights group video about an egg farm that was released on July 21, 2016. The panel was comprised of an ethicist, an animal care specialist and a veterinarian. A report of their findings was released by the Canadian CFI on July 22, and distributed directly to select media, egg industry groups and companies, food retail and food service associations. Review the report from the panel here.
Hidden camera investigations have heightened public attention on animal care issues. In an effort to foster a more balanced conversation and to provide credible feedback to promote continuous improvement in farm animal care, CFI created the Animal Care Review Panel process.
The Panel operates independently, and Its reports are not submitted to the industry for review or approval. CCFI's role is to facilitate the review process and release the panel's findings.
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Ontario Poultry Breeders Sat Oct 21, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Poultry Welfare Auditor Course (PAACO)Tue Oct 31, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Harvest Gala 2017 Thu Nov 02, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Poultry Innovations Conference and BanquetWed Nov 08, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
AgEx - Agricultural Excellence ConferenceTue Nov 21, 2017
Eastern Ontario Poultry ConferenceWed Nov 29, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM