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Why 20 years? The realities of transitioning an agriculture supply chain

Earlier this year, Egg Farmers of Canada announced that egg farmers will transition away from conventional hen housing systems over the next 20 years. By 2036 there will be no conventional housing left in Canada. Canadians and organizations applauded us for this move across the country. The task of transforming Canadian egg production is a complicated one. One of the most common questions we’re asked is: why do farmers need 20 years to complete this transition? A 20-year time frame takes into account the enormous challenges of transitioning an entire agriculture supply chain. This is no small task. Here are just five important things to consider in a transition of this magnitude:

1. New birds


Not all chickens are raised alike. Young hens (called pullets) are raised in pullet barns. How a pullet is raised determines what kind of housing they can thrive in as they grow. This is like egg farmers themselves–our upstream supply chain must adjust to align with the national shift. Transitioning to these systems requires new equipment and new rearing practices, which takes time.

2. New barns


In many cases, new housing systems means new barns. This is extraordinarily expensive and requires careful planning. Building a new barn with new housing can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. For an average sized farm in Canada the cost to rebuild can be close to $1 million dollars. Obviously a barn can’t just be ripped up and replaced over the course of a few months. A fiscally sustainable transition takes time and preparation.

3. New equipment


New housing means new equipment. A lot of this new equipment needs to be imported from Europe. Not only is that expensive, it takes time. There can be delays in delivery and orders must be made far in advance. A lengthy transition is needed to make sure every farmer has the equipment they need for their new mode of production.

4. Certainty for farmers


In the European Union, conventional hen housing systems were prohibited as of 2012, a process initiated twelve years earlier.1 A key problem with their transition was a lack of certainty around which housing systems would be allowed and which wouldn’t. Many farmers delayed building new barns because of this uncertainty. This led to underinvestment in egg production, a lower egg supply and a subsequent rise in prices.2 We want to avoid those problems by aiming for certainty and orderliness in our approach.

5. Supply and demand


We need to ensure that the supply of eggs matches up with what consumers actually want and will pay for. Prices must remain reasonable for the Canadian families who rely on affordable eggs and count on choice at the store. For that reason, our steady, coordinated and cross-supply chain approach must be executed with the utmost respect for ensuring supply—both that there are no supply shortages and that there is no production of eggs for which there is no market. We’re going to ensure this transition works for farmers and works for Canadians. If you want to learn more about the transition process, you can read details by clicking here. We welcome any questions you have about the process. Leave a comment below, tweet us at @eggsoeufs or message us on Facebook.