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.
June 24, 2016 - The United Egg Producers announced last week that they are commited to ending the practice of male chick culling in the next four years. Canadian technology developed by Michael Ngadi, a professor of bioresource engineering at McGill University, to develop a machine that selects female eggs before they're hatched may help. READ MORE
It’s an amazing thing to be a part of an initiative that’s already making a significant difference, to be able to help take it to the next level and make further progress. That’s what Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) is achieving, having spearheaded and funded the addition of an egg farm to “Project Canaan,” a sustainable farming and economic development initiative in Swaziland, Africa. Project Canaan was started by an Ontario couple in 2009 under their charity “Heart for Africa.” Although Janine and Ian Maxwell had no farming background, they enlisted the help of experienced folks and turned 2,500 acres of empty land into a thriving mixed farm and rural community.
The site boasts dairy cow and goat operations, along with cultivation of fruit, vegetables and cash crops and creation of hand-made items. The farm feeds the 86 orphans who make a home there, the 220 local employees and thousands of people through local church-sponsored food programs. The egg farm is the next step in making the charity’s farm, orphanage, schools, women’s shelter and medical clinic self-sustaining by 2020.
EFC has long been involved in food assistance programs around the world, for example, sending over 16 metric tonnes of egg powder per year to feed children in developing countries over the last 20+ years. In 2014, the International Egg Commission (IEC) brought various independent charitable actions being taken by IEC members (such as EFC) into a cohesive strategy, forming the International Egg Foundation. It now works with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and other groups. For the Project Canaan egg farm, the fundraising, expertise and training is being provided by EFC, and the IEC is providing supports such as the technical services of Ontario poultry vet (and IEC scientific advisor) Dr. Vincent Guyonnet.
EFC chair Peter Clarke has visited Project Canaan several times, most recently in December 2015. He’s been involved from the start, ever since Janine presented the project to the IEC many years ago. He and others looked into the initiative in detail, were satisfied with its legitimacy, and presented it to the EFC board. There was unanimous support, and a project team then was formed to make egg production on the farm a reality.
“We put the call out to our industry last year, and our partners and Canadians responded with compassion and generosity,” says EFC CEO Tim Lambert. “Much of the funding for the project was the result of donations and in-kind contributions. The outcome of this collective effort yielded truly amazing results - more than $700,000 has been raised to date to support the construction of the operation and help with operating costs. We remain committed to fundraising to support the ongoing costs of operating the farm until it reaches self-sufficiency.”
The layer operation at Project Canaan welcomed its first flock of 2,500 hens in January and a second flock of 2,500 will arrive in July. The design of the two barns had to account for the extreme heat the country is exposed to. “The buildings are higher than normal,” Clarke explains, “so that the heat rises and goes out the vents, and there are also fans that help with that. The buildings are also open-sided, with curtains that can be opened or closed to let the breeze blow through. The birds are doing extremely well.” The two-tier Big Dutchman cage system that was chosen is made for remote areas and has a simple design so it can be operated with little or no electricity, Lambert explains. “Feeding, egg collection and manure removal is carried out manually,” he says. “More staff will be hired to manage and operate the farm over time. This fits Heart for Africa’s philosophy that providing employment creates a ripple effect within the community.”
In addition to EFC board members, several other Canadian egg farmers have volunteered to work hand-in-hand with local Swazis to share knowledge and build an understanding of best practices. “This has become a unique opportunity for some of the young leaders in our industry,” Lambert notes. “New Brunswick egg farmer Aaron Law spent much of January in Swaziland, followed by Ontarians Isaac Pelissero in February, and Megan Veldman and Lydia DeWeerd in March. All of these young people have shown a tremendous amount of leadership and compassion, and we are very proud that they stepped up to share their expertise.”
EFC intends to implement the Project Canaan model in other areas of Swaziland as well as other African countries. “It is part of our belief that the egg can and will play a major role in the world’s approach to hunger and malnutrition, helping children and families in developing countries where diets are deficient in protein,” Lambert says.
What stood out for Clarke on his visit was the impressive agricultural expertise that exists in Swaziland. He notes the team made a connection with a large poultry operation nearby to deliver both pullets and feed. They are currently working with a local nutritionist and veterinarian as well. For Clarke, motivation to be involved in Project Canaan is all about the huge difference it is making. “From hearing Janine’s presentation to our board, getting support from producers coast-to-coast and then going there and seeing what they’re doing with orphans, seeing the connection with 30 churches in the outlying areas and knowing just how fantastic a source of protein is an egg to a child or to any individual, it makes you want to buy in and be a part of something that can make that much of a difference,” he says. “You see the results.”
Roger Pelissero, EFC director from Ontario and father to Isaac, is another Project Canaan team member. When he visited in fall of 2014, he and others also went to Mozambique to visit the “Eggs for Africa” project there, where he says they gathered a lot of valuable information. What impresses Pelissero most about the whole project is the dedication of Janine and Ian Maxwell, whom Pelissero says started this humanitarian work in a search for meaning after 9/11 happened. “They’ve made a total change in their lives and it’s quite a commitment,” he says. “They know they can’t change the whole world, but they can made a difference in some children’s lives and they are
May 9, 2016 - Grand Island, Nebraska is traditionally associated with cattle farming but a landmark investment by the Netherlands based, genetics company, Hendrix Genetics is set to put egg production firmly on the map.
On May 4, Grand Island community leaders and representatives from Hendrix gathered to “break dirt” on a state of the art chicken hatchery that will become the focal point for egg producers in that part of the U.S. Capable of hatching 24 million egg laying chickens per year the facility will create up to 50 new jobs in the area.
“It’s near many of our customers, and a customer base that we’re trying to grow right now, so there’s a lot of farms in the Midwest and this will be able to supply chicks for those farms,” says Hendrix Genetics Managing Director Peter Mumm.
The new hatchery alone represents an investment of $10 million and will create the need for a further 11 breeding barns at local farms, all within a 100-mile radius of Grand Island, to supply hatching eggs to the new hatchery. The first flocks of egg layers will leave the hatchery as early as next year.
As an industry pioneer tackling the issue of sustainability at the producer level, the Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) started on their journey of developing a sustainability platform for egg production farms in 2014. The development of the strategy looked like a familiar three-legged stool: stakeholder engagement, to open a dialogue so that the players understood each others’ views and values; accountability and transparency by measuring and monitoring progress; and integrating the PEEP (Producer Environmental Egg Plan) program with current work and processes.
The EFA sustainability platform was created with the consumer in mind but the target audience is all value chain partners, from government to special interest groups, to inform them about egg production at the farm level and to engage them as they pursue their own sustainability goals. “If our value chain partners want farmers to educate the public, we can help,” said Jenna Griffin, industry development officer for the EFA.
The sustainability platform was distilled down from seven key areas to a simplified four pillars: Healthy Birds, Healthy Eggs, Healthy Farms, and Healthy Communities. This has allowed them to engage farmers, making it easier to understand how their day-to-day practices can help to achieve sustainability goals.
EFA released their first sustainability report, outlining some statistics and metrics, in 2015.
As Griffin explained to the audience at the 2nd Annual Canadian Poultry Sustainability Symposium in London, Ont., the sustainability platform will join other EFA on-farm programs that include PEEP, Start Clean Stay Clean, and the Animal Care Program.
Sixty per cent of the producers in Alberta enrolled in the sustainability program in 2014, increasing to 68 per cent in 2015. Of those, 11 producers switched from incandescent lighting, reducing their carbon footprint by the equivalent amount of 158,000 km not driven or 41,372.06 kg of CO2. That’s the type of change that can be monitored through the program over time.
Along the way EFA is learning how to better ask the questions and which questions to ask. For example, changing the wording on a question about manure management raised the average score from four to five, without actually reflecting changes to the practice itself. We needed to ask what we were really after, admitted Griffin. In 2016 there will be more questions added as the program evolves, such as energy usage for cooler systems, and more emphasis on wash water effluent management.
Griffin’s first piece of advice for other provinces, in order to make engagement in sustainability programs attractive, would be to speak in a language that matters to farmers. What does a ‘carbon footprint’ actually mean on a farm? Help farmers to understand what that means in terms of kWh of energy, for example, and how that can pencil out. She also suggested engaging and training farmers to be ambassadors. When farmers can see their goals are being met, they can take ownership of that and share their own story.
One of the original intents was to start discussion, to start dialogue among all stakeholders, creating a “coalition of the willing”, said Griffin. For Egg Farmers of Alberta, she acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to do, everything from opening up that dialogue through webinars and workshops, to dealing with setting goals for production practices such as beak trimming (Where are we at? Where do we need to be?). So far, the discussion has been hard to contain.
Egg Farmers of Alberta was the recipient of the 2015 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award for their leadership and achievements in sustainability programming.
Furnished cages support behaviours such as scratching, perching and nesting, but their design continues to evolve. Thirty years ago, the earliest models held fewer than 15 hens and allowed them access to dust baths or litter. These prototypes presented problems with hygiene and egg collection, with scratch mats now being the norm. The size of the furnished cages has changed too – some of the newest models now house groups as large as 100 hens.
How does the performance and welfare of the hens respond to higher stocking densities?
A study done by Tina Widowski in the department of animal and poultry science at the University of Guelph, measured these parameters at two different densities in two different sized cages, with comparison to reference groups housed in conventional cages. The production parameters under consideration included feed intake, egg production, egg weight, mortality, body weight and body weight uniformity, feather condition, and bone strength.
“This research is some of the first ever to assess the welfare of hens housed in large furnished cages of different sizes and space allowances using measures of production, health and body condition,” said Widowski. “At any given space allowance hens in these larger groups have more total space available to them and more ‘free space’ since they tend to cluster together at different times of day leaving some parts of the cage largely unoccupied.”
Widowski used 1218 conventionally reared LSL-lite laying hens housed at the Arkell Research Station near Guelph, Ont. Eighteen-week old hens were individually weighed and wing banded before being placed in either larger standard commercial furnished cages or custom built smaller furnished cages.
The cages were populated with 80 (high density) or 55 (low density) birds in the larger cages and 40 or 28 birds in the smaller cages. This allowed for a stocking space allowance of either 520 cm2 ( approximately 80 in2, high density) or 748 cm2 (approximately 116 in2, low density) per hen. The European Union standard is 750 cm2/hen; a reference population in conventional cages was used for comparison at 465 cm2 (72 in2)/hen.
Furnishings included curtained nest boxes, claw shorteners, two linear feeders, nipple drinkers and a smooth plastic scratch mat where a small amount of feed (20g) was distributed several times per day. Perch allowances and nesting areas were proportionally sized for the cages and the hens were given feed and water ad libitum.
Egg quality was monitored continuously over the 50 weeks of the trial and egg quality was assessed every four weeks to provide an indication of shell strength. Hens were randomly selected for individual body weight measurements at 30, 50, 60 and 70 weeks of age, at which time they were also scored for overall cleanliness, feather condition, as well as keel, toe and foot damage health. At the end of the trial 10 per cent of the birds were assessed post-mortem for bone strength.
Overall the results indicate that most measures of productivity were not affected by the parameters of the trial. Hen day egg production, egg weight and eggshell deformation were not affected by cage size while there was slightly greater egg deformity (weaker shells) at 57 weeks of age in low space allowance.
Mortality was lower in conventional cages than any of the furnished cages (4.6 per cent vs. 2.0 per cent), unaffected by cage size. The majority of mortality occurred early in the study, due to injury or entrapment, while both birds and researchers adjusted to the new systems.
Feather condition deteriorated under all treatments over time, but hens in the high density furnished cages were poorer than the others, with the increased potential for abrasion by the furnishings or the possibility of increased feather pecking. This is supported by other research that found feather condition deteriorates with decreased space allowance.
Hens in large cages were the cleanest, possibly explained by cage design – the large cages were fitted with a wire partition over the scratch mat area that kept them from roosting and defecating there – or simply that higher density resulted in closer contact.
All bones were stronger in furnished cages than conventional cages, but leg bones tended to be weaker in the small cages with lower space allowance. Overall, space allowance and cage size had no effect on the rate of keel damage. Toe damage was higher in the furnished cages over conventional, possibly because the furnishings allowed greater opportunity for mechanical injury. Footpad damage increased significantly as space allowance decreased.
The only unexpected result was that hens in small furnished cages consumed significantly higher amounts of feed compared to large furnished cages, a result that Widowski explained may be due to the difficulty in gathering feed intake data and possibly greater feed wastage with this experimental design.
Widowski concluded that while productivity and mortality were not influenced by space allowance, the differences in feather condition and foot health might be a reflection of compromised welfare of hens housed at the lower space allowance. Given current research results of this study and a comparable research project at Michigan State University, she suggests a cage space allowance of at least 581 cm2 (90 in2) per hen would be considered appropriate for maintaining the physical measures of welfare quality specifically for the white laying hens used in this study.
This research was supported by OMAFRA and Egg Farmers of Canada with in-kind contribution of Farmer Automatic Cages from Clark AG Systems.
February 18, 2016 - The owner of Jack Astor's and Canyon Creek restaurants will soon start serving eggs laid by hens not raised in cages.
SIR Corp, the owner of the two restaurant chains and several others, announced February 18 all 64 of its restaurants will make the shift by September.
The promise comes after public pledges by several other companies to start dishing up only cage-free eggs as well, including Tim Hortons, McDonald's, and Starbucks. However, most of these companies
say it will take between four and 10 years to make the change.
The Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) announced a landmark decision on Feb. 5 that the organization will commence a “coordinated, systematic, market-oriented transition from conventional egg production toward other methods of production for supplying eggs.”
The announcement is not unexpected and was inevitable, given the increasing pressure to ban conventional housing, as well as the number of foodservice companies making cage-free announcements.
However, the timeline given to make such an industry-wide transition – EFC says it will be completed by 2036 – has been met with criticism.
The Monday following EFC’s announcement I received a Letter to the Editor from Stephanie Brown, director, Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, and Liz White, director, Animal Alliance of Canada, in which they applaud EFC’s efforts, but lament on the timeframe:
The February 5th announcement from egg farmers is focused on enriched cages for hens, not cage-free systems, as consumers are requesting. Eggs produced in enriched cages won’t satisfy retailer requirements for cage-free eggs. Tim Hortons, Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Taco Bell, General Mills, Nestle and others have responded to public pressure and are calling for cage-free eggs. It is regrettable egg farmers still promote cages for laying hens. Whatever the alternative caging is called – ‘furnished’, ‘enriched’ or ‘colony’– it remains an unacceptable confinement system. About 95 per cent of laying hens in Canada are now confined to battery cages with each hen having less space than a standard sheet of paper. Even with growing public pressure against battery cages, the EFC wants until 2036 to change from small battery cages to larger confinement operations. Twenty years is too long for the Canadian egg industry to move hens out of battery cages. The European Union made its change in 12 years.
Twenty years is a long time, but it is realistic. I would point the authors and other critics to a fantastically written article “The Insanely Complicated Logistics of Cage-Free Eggs for All” on Wired.com.
As the manager of the nation’s egg supply, EFC must ensure that eggs produced on Canadian farms are meeting consumer and customer needs – and meeting this obligation may not mean that 100 per cent of production must be cage-free, even 20 years from now.
Results from a commercial-scale study comparing enriched, conventional, and cage-free housing, commissioned by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES), show that both enriched and cage-free housing systems have welfare benefits, and that birds in enriched housing actually fared a little better. Mortality was considerably higher in the cage-free aviary system, so why is this deemed the gold standard? I don’t understand how it is OK to accept more animals dying just to have them in more aesthetically pleasing surroundings.
EFC has, in my opinion, done the right thing by commissioning research and participating in initiatives such as the CSES to try to make the best decisions for its growers, purchasers and the birds. This is ongoing and it could very well be that in 20 years, the market deems all egg production be cage-free.
However, at this time, it’s too premature to demand only one type of production and dismiss enriched housing based solely on its looks.
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Agricultural Data Use and TransparencyFri Jun 23, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Breakfast on the Farm Sat Jun 24, 2017 @ 9:00AM - 01:00PM
Children’s Progressive Safety Day Thu Jul 06, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Chicken Marketing Summit Sun Jul 16, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Poultry Science Association AGM Mon Jul 17, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM