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Agricultural Innovation

The Canadian Egg Industry’s Remarkable Sustainability Story

Egg farm
Egg farm
Research shows the Canadian egg industry’s increase in production comes with a decrease in its environmental footprint.
Tim Lambert

Tim Lambert

CEO, Egg Farmers of Canada

Dr. Nathan Pelletier

Dr. Nathan Pelletier

Canada’s Research Chair in Sustainability, Egg Farmers of Canada
& Industrial Research Chair, National Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada

Canadians love Canadian eggs. So much so that each of them eats an average of 253 eggs annually — an increase of about 68 eggs per person over the last decade. Baked, hard-boiled, poached, scrambled, or fried — we just can’t get enough, and for good reason. Eggs are kitchen staples that are convenient, versatile, and packed with nutrition.

Interestingly enough, they’re also eco-friendly! While the demand is growing and egg farmers need to produce more eggs to meet the Canadian taste for eggs, their environmental footprint is decreasing. And it’s possible because sustainability is a core tenant of the egg industry.

Laying hens at a farm

Sustainability as a core value

The Canadian egg industry has responded remarkably to the growing demand for eggs. Between 1962 and 2012, egg production increased by 50%, and during this same time the industry also managed to achieve a 50% reduction of its environmental footprint. Canadian egg farmers now produce 68% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and use 81% less land, 41% less energy, and 69% less water.

What has driven such impressive results? “It’s a combination of every input that goes in,” says Tim Lambert, CEO of Egg Farmers of Canada. He says that everything from the genetics of the hens to their diets to hen housing advancements and better health management has played a role. “Our farmers have been able to invest in new technologies which help them be more efficient,” says Lambert. That includes initiatives like solar and wind turbine-powered farms, precision agriculture, and smart barns that monitor egg output from individual hens, optimal lighting levels, and temperature. “Sustainability has always been part of our DNA,” says Lambert. “We’re a very progressive industry.”

Quality assurance

The egg industry’s commitment to sustainability matters to Canadians, who are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from and how its production is affecting the environment. “People can buy Canadian eggs knowing that this is an industry dedicated to minimizing our impact on the environment while producing to the highest possible standards of food safety, quality, and animal welfare,” says Lambert. “They can buy our products and feed their families knowing that we care about the same things they do.”

Continuing innovations

Dr. Nathan Pelletier, Egg Farmers of Canada’s Research Chair in Sustainability and Industrial Research Chair for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has spent over a decade researching the science of sustainability.

He recently conducted a benchmark study using lifecycle analysis. “Essentially, I look at the system of egg production as a whole,” he explains. His research has yielded encouraging data on the industry’s sustainability. “Farms are increasingly well-managed and the hens are becoming increasingly efficient, living longer, and having fewer health issues. This improves the efficiency all the way back along the supply chain,” he says.

Dr. Pelletier’s current research is focused on developing a farm-level sustainability assessment tool that individual farmers can use to calculate their environmental footprint. They will also be able to compare it against benchmarks from other farmers in their region. “It’s taking a huge body of research and complex models and distilling this information into a practical tool that can be on the desktop of every Canadian egg farmer,” he says.

In its ongoing efforts at innovation and its impressive sustainability achievements, the Canadian egg industry has created a model that works for Canadians now and into the future.

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