From the farm to your table: An overview of Canada’s egg industryBy Wendi Hiebert, PHEc
Whether you enjoy them hard-cooked, poached or over-easy, eggs are pretty simple to cook. But getting those eggs from the farm to your table within less than a week? That takes behind-the-scenes effort and coordination across the industry’s entire supply chain.
The Canadian egg industry, like most industries, is made up of several independent yet closely connected partners. Each partner plays a specific role to help deliver the fresh, local, high-quality eggs Canadians want and expect.
Farmers and their hens produce the eggs, but many groups like hatcheries, feed mills, veterinarians, graders, processors and retailers are also involved in delivering eggs to Canadians.
Read on to learn more about how the egg travels from the farm to your table:
It all starts at the hatchery where eggs from breeding flocks are placed in incubators and hatch chicks. These chicks grow into young hens known as pullets. Some egg farmers raise their pullets on their farm, whereas many purchase pullets from pullet farmers and transfer them to their farm when the hens are about 19 weeks of age and ready to lay eggs.
The egg farm
Egg farmers use a variety of different systems to house their hens. Each housing system is designed to provide a clean environment, fresh food and water, and protection from natural predators and extreme weather.
On the farm, Canadian farmers follow important protocols to care for their hens and standards that ensure their eggs are produced according to some of the highest standards in the world.
This includes adhering to a national Animal Care Program based on the Code of Practice for the care and handling of Poultry – Layers and a comprehensive food safety program called Start Clean-Stay Clean®.
The grading station
The farmer collects and packs the eggs which are shipped to a federally-licensed grading station where the eggs are washed, graded by size, weight and shell quality then packed into branded cartons.
Graders, who purchase the eggs from the farmer, are yet another partner in the industry’s supply chain. This group works closely with their customers, including grocery stores and restaurants, to determine the variety of eggs needed to meet the growing demand of Canadians.
The breaking station
Some eggs are processed into liquid, frozen or powdered form to be used in restaurants and bakeries or to make other products such as mayonnaise or shampoo. A special machine called a “breaker” is used to crack the eggs before processing.
Eggs are shipped and stored in refrigeration to help preserve freshness. From classic white and brown eggs to free range and free run to organic, omega-3 and vitamin D enhanced, never has there been more choice at the store!
Next time you crack open a delicious and nutritious egg, remember Canadian egg farmers and the entire industry’s supply chain work hard to deliver a constant supply of eggs—from the farm to the store—for Canadians to enjoy every single day.
Wendi Hiebert is a Professional Home Economist and food writer, and a long-time egg lover. She is especially fond of devilled eggs, poached eggs, egg salad sandwiches, frittatas, pickled eggs…..