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Greener eggs and innovation

It’s easy to assume that the worldwide push to “go green” is coming solely from prominent politicians and concerned citizens. However, you might be surprised to learn that the eggs in your fridge, produced by local Canadian egg farmers, are also part of a “go green” effort.

Canada’s egg farmers are dramatically reinventing the Canadian egg industry by looking at innovative ways to manage their supply chains and production systems for more sustainable outcomes—think “greener” eggs. By becoming a leader in sustainability, our egg farmers are doing their part in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, thereby helping Canada meet its United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) commitments.

Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) is a national not-for-profit organization that manages the supply of eggs, promotes eggs and develops standards for egg farming in Canada, including leading the charge for sustainability. Knowing egg farmers have long been committed to sustainability, EFC decided to take a hard look at the entire supply chain to see how the whole industry has changed—and where more improvements could be made.

This week, EFC released a study called Environmental Footprint of Canadian Eggs: 1962 vs 2012. This comprehensive study provides insight into the history of agricultural production in Canada. The aim of the study was to evaluate the cradle-to-farm gate environmental footprint of egg production, and how it has changed over fifty years.

Have conditions generally improved? Are Canadian egg farmers producing food in ways that are more or less sustainable than those that were commonplace decades or centuries ago? The study reveals the key factors that have influenced changes in the sustainability profile of egg and other food production systems over time. It is also a helpful tool, providing a benchmark against which farmers can measure their sustainability and efficiency progress in the years to come.

Here’s what we learned. Canadian egg production volumes increased from 434 million dozen to 657 million dozen eggs per year between 1962 and 2012—an increase of over 50%. Even with this increase, the egg industry’s overall environmental footprint decreased for all resource use and emissions indicators considered. Supply chain emissions for egg production were 72% lower for greenhouse gas emissions. Supply chain energy, land and water use were 41%, 81% and 69% lower.

The change in the environmental footprint of Canadian eggs is attributed to a number of factors. These include improved efficiencies in the supply chain activities that support egg production; changes in the composition of feeds sourced for both pullet and egg production; and significant improvements in resource efficiencies, animal health, and productivity at the level of pullet and egg production. These effective, on-going management upgrades have placed the Canadian egg industry at substantially higher levels of efficiency and productivity than several decades ago.

This commitment to effective sustainability practices comes just as Canada has signed on to the Paris Agreement at COP21 in December 2015. Meeting the targets set out in the agreement requires cooperation across sectors, situating Canada as a leader in addressing climate change. Egg farmers across Canada are dedicated to doing their part—from building on past successes to implementing new green innovations. Canadian egg farmers hope to inspire more companies and organizations to follow suit by demonstrating that they are committed to producing the high-quality and nutritious product that Canadians want and expect while caring for the environment.

As a next step in its commitment to effective sustainability practices for egg production, EFC has funded a new Research Chair in Sustainability, Dr. Nathan Pelletier, at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus. This is further proof that EFC is determined to continue to improve the environmental footprint of eggs, while ensuring that the eggs in your fridge—and in fridges all across the country—are fresh, local, high-quality, “greener” eggs, with a dose of innovation.

Tim Lambert is the CEO of Egg Farmers of Canada. Dr. Nathan Pelletier is the new EFC Chair in Sustainability at UBC Okanagan and the founder of Global Ecologic, a consultancy that balances food system sustainability research, education and outreach.

Published by The Hill Times.