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Egg Farmers of Alberta is proud to be a provincial sponsor of the highly successful Rocks & Rings program, presented by Curling Canada.

Rock and rings & Egg Farmers - YouTube

Classes receive a 40 minutes session of fun and instruction, thanks to unique indoor floor curling equipment that provides a true curling experience without requiring ice!

This national initiative has been teaching students about curling and the importance of teamwork for the past 10 years.  Here in Alberta, the Rocks & Rings program delivers over 300 days of training to over 50,000 students each school year!

On May 2nd, EFA had the chance to visit a local school while the Rocks & Rings program was running.  Not only that, but we also partnered with Crack’d YYC to feed over 250 grade 3-5 students a fresh, hot, healthy egg breakfast!

The students got to choose either an egg breakfast wrap, a grilled ham & cheese sandwich, or beef brisket breakfast poutine.  All three options were delicious and prepared fresh by Chef Jordon and his food truck team, before being served up to thankful students by his wife, Rachelle.

The kids all loved the food, with several coming back to say thanks and even give hugs!

It was exciting to watch Jodi, the Rocks & Rings trainer, teach the kids about curling, teamwork and sportsmanship.  EFA would like to thank Kim Bates and everyone at G.W. Skene School for letting us be part of the fun!

To learn more about the Rocks & Rings program, please visit their website at rocksandrings.com!

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In February of 2014, Egg Farmers of Alberta launched the Canadian egg industry’s first environmental program.  The Producer Environmental Egg Program (PEEP) is intended to help egg farmers better identify their impacts on the environment and facilitate the use of best practices.

PEEP provides information about the impacts of on-farm activities and helps to establish goals for improvement.  The PEEP assessment is focused on key impact areas such as energy use, water consumption and manure management, which helps farmers identify and address environmental risks and opportunities, to improve their carbon footprint.

As an organization, EFA is asked by our partners to verify and validate that egg farmers in Alberta are operating sustainability.  Consumers are asking for freshness and fair value, which the egg industry is able to ensure via the supply management system.

Consumers also demand that their eggs come from hens raised in a welfare-friendly manner, and we have a long history with Egg Farmers of Canada and the Animal Care Program. Our farmers voted to make a passing grade in this program mandatory – and in order to pass, producers must have a minimum score of 90%.

As a national industry we also have the Start Clean – Stay Clean program, which is in place to assure consumers that their eggs are safe.  Alberta made accreditation in the on-farm food safety program mandatory for farmers as well, and we have worked over the past five years to bring the average score on the program just shy of 99%.

In the fall of 2011, the EFA Board felt it was necessary to also demonstrate that eggs are being produced in an environmentally sustainable way, in order to meet the three-legged stool criteria for sustainability: social, economic and environmental, and so they established a strategy for EFA to develop an on-farm environmental program.

The Producer Environmental Egg Program (PEEP) was launched at EFA’s AGM in February 2014.  It was the first program of its kind in Canada.  The program is intended to help farmers better identify their impact on the environment and promote the increased use of best practices.  Most egg farmers are already good stewards, however, PEEP provides them with the information about impacts of their activities on their operation that they may not have been aware of, and gives them goals and targets for gradual improvement.

The on-farm PEEP assessment, which is conducted once per year, helps farms identify and address environmental risks and opportunities in their operation.  The program covers four key areas of environmental stewardship: water use, waste disposal, manure management and energy use.

Importantly, PEEP is also a way that EFA and the provincial egg industry can communicate an “environmental scorecard” to consumers and other stakeholders.  Each year when EFA publishes its annual Sustainability Report, an update is provided on the average PEEP score and the number of farmers achieving the passing 60% score.  It is important to note that PEEP encourages farmers to go beyond minimum requirements, with top marks being reserved for farmers that achieve aspirational goals.

When EFA first launched the program in 2014, the average score was 60%.  Today, just 4 years later, the average score is hovering around 80%.  This 20% increase represents a marked improvement that demonstrates the commitment Alberta egg farmers have to environmentally sustainable egg production.

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Net-Zero Egg Barn, Blog Post #9 – 2 Years Later: December 3/2018

When we last visited the net-zero egg barn at Brant Colony, back in December 2016, egg manager Darrel Mandel was caring for his first flock, and the live-feed cameras had just come online.  Fast-forwarding two years, Darrel is now caring for his third flock of laying hens and has also raised several flocks of pullets, for both himself and other Alberta egg farmers.  Looking back, Darrel is pleased with his decision to build the net-zero egg barn, featuring an aviary hen housing system.

“I feel it was a great decision to be part of the net-zero project,” noted Darrel, during a recent visit.  “First, it has been great to help the industry accomplish its goals for this project.  Second, it has been great for our farm.  Not only because of all the additions to our barn, but also for increasing our awareness about how an improved construction plan can enhance our energy efficiency.”

When asked about the greatest benefit of the net-zero barn project, Darrel shared his insights.  “I think most of all, the greatest benefit is what the industry will get and has gotten out of this project already, in terms of having a state-of-the-art facility it can both learn from and share with others in the egg and agriculture industry.  We have learned how solar panels contribute, and how the Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) unit performs in the western Canadian climate.  Even though we are still working through some issues with the HRV and will understand the true benefits even more in time, we have seen how it and the other technologies incorporated into the barn’s design have resulted in utility savings, as well as a better climate inside the barn for both the birds and barn workers.”

The net-zero barn project was always meant to be an educational tool for the industry, to better understand the potential positive impacts various design features and technologies could have on an egg barn’s ability to balance energy inputs and outputs.  At this point in time, the layer portion of the barn has successfully achieved net-zero status for electricity.

For Egg Farmers of Alberta, the net-zero barn has become a success story and a focal point the entire provincial egg industry can be proud of.  Egg manager Darrel and the folks at Brant Colony have been wonderful hosts for several events over the past two years, eagerly taking reporters, bloggers, politicians, students, consumers, industry stakeholders and fellow egg farmers on tours through the barn.  Darrel always makes the time to explain every unique detail of the barn’s construction, point out the energy efficient technology that the project funding made possible, and thoughtfully answer any questions guests have for him.

When asked to reflect on the past two years and share any key learnings or insights he has gleaned from his involvement with the net-zero project, Darrel prefers to look at the big picture.  “Never underestimate something you initially have no clue about, even if it may appear unpredictable at the start.  The valuable information made available through this project has greatly benefited both our farm and the egg industry.  It helped us make decisions to enhance the barn even beyond what was covered under the project funding.  By being involved, we started thinking more strategically about every decision, wondering what we could do differently or tweak in order to make the barn more energy efficient.”

Being asked to regularly open his barn doors for visitors and install live-feed cameras inside the barn may have initially been a little out of Darrel’s comfort zone, but he has become a natural and passionate Egg Ambassador!  “The farm tours were something I was not fond of going in, but the results of giving the public the chance to learn more about where their eggs come from and how they are produced, is an overwhelmingly positive feeling.  The gap between farmers and consumers is huge and all of us in agriculture need to do our part to help close that gap.  For a farmer, considering any project or opportunity with a “what’s in it for me” point of view is the wrong approach.  Instead, I would encourage farmers to get involved as much as possible, to benefit the industry as a whole.”

Brant Colony egg manager Darrel Mandel sits with his birds, inside the net-zero barn’s free-run aviary hen housing system.  The red lights were added to help reduce feather pecking and Darrel has definitely noticed a substantial improvement in the feather cover of his flock, which is an indicator of enhanced animal welfare for the birds.

Canadian Poultry has published a couple articles about the net-zero barn at Brant Colony over the past few years.  They have reviewed the project and its technical achievements, interviewed representatives from Brant Colony, Egg Farmers of Alberta and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, and shared how this initiative is just one step in EFA’s journey towards building a sustainable egg industry in Alberta.

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Eggs are a staple product in fridges throughout Alberta and across Canada, and egg sales have been steadily growing for the past decade.  Consumers are curious to learn more about where their food comes from and how it was produced, so they can feel confident feeding their families.  However, whether it’s at public events like the Calgary Stampede or during in-store appearances at grocery stores, the most common question people have for egg farmers is to explain the differences between all the various eggs for sale in the egg case!

Regular white and brown eggs typically come from hens raised in conventional housing.  The Canadian egg industry is currently in the process of phasing out conventional housing; over 30% of Alberta egg production has already shifted to alternative housing.  Most people are likely aware of two of the three styles of alternative hen housing – free-run (hens are free to roam around the barn) and free-range (free-run, with access to outdoor runs when weather permits) – since eggs from these housing systems have been available on grocery store shelves for quite a while and are easy to identify.

The newest alternative hen housing system is also the one that consumers are the least aware of.  Within the egg industry, the system has been referred to as “enriched”, “furnished” or “enriched colony” housing.  Things get even more confusing at the grocery store, where even more inconsistent terminology is used to market eggs from this hen housing system.  Here in Alberta, these eggs are sold as “Nestlaid” (Burnbrae Farms’ Naturegg brand) or “Comfort Coop” (Sparks Eggs’ Farmer’s Finest brand).

For a quick history lesson, enriched housing has actually been around for nearly a decade.  Canada’s first enrichable hen housing system (a style of conventional housing that could be converted to enriched housing) was installed on an Alberta egg farm in 2005.  North America’s first two enriched hen housing systems were installed on Alberta egg farms in 2009.  Alberta egg farmers have been at the forefront of adopting this innovative housing.

So what is enriched housing?

Enriched housing provides the same animal welfare and food safety benefits that conventional housing does, while giving the hens more space (both floor space and height) to move around.  Those shared benefits include separating both the birds and eggs laid from the manure, which enhances food safety, and keeping birds in smaller groups.  Small group sizes (25-75 birds in enriched housing, as opposed to 5-9 birds in conventional cages) not only allows the farmer to better observe the birds’ behavior, health and well-being, but also helps prevents some natural behaviors that can be detrimental to their health, such as feather pecking.  By providing hens with enrichments such as nest boxes, perches, scratch pads and dust baths, enriched housing enables the hens to express a wider array of natural behaviors that are scientifically proven to have a positive impact on their health and well-being.

The ‘Five Freedoms’ are an internationally recognized set of guidelines for evaluating the quality of animal welfare.  The freedom to express normal behavior is one of the five freedoms and is an important feature that all three styles of alternative hen housing systems share, which represents a significant improvement over conventional housing.  All hen housing systems effectively provide for the other four freedoms:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from fear and distress
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom to express normal behavior

The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) updated the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pullets and Laying Hens in 2017.  The Code is the foundation for the Canadian egg industry’s mandatory on-farm Animal Care Program, and hen housing was a priority topic during the 2017 code review process.  The Code calls for all Canadian egg production to transition away from conventional housing by 2036, into acceptable alternative hen housing systems that include enriched, free-run and free-range.

Enriched is a relatively new and innovative hen housing system that is being adopted by egg farmers throughout Alberta and across Canada.  Enriched housing is seen by many as providing the best of both worlds by providing high quality animal welfare for laying hens, while helping to keep eggs away from the birds and their manure in order to maximize food safety assurances.  Enriched housing is a well-balanced system that marries the advantages of conventional housing with the enhanced ability for the hens to express a wider array of natural behaviors commonly associated with free-run and free-range housing.  In fact, enriched housing performed very well on a comparative study completed by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply in 2015.

Consumers can feel confident feeding eggs from hens raised in enriched housing to their families.  Eggs from local egg farming families with enriched housing in their barn are available all over Alberta, at every major grocery retailer.  Just remember to look for eggs with the term “Nestlaid” or “Comfort Coop” on the carton!

Laying hens in an enriched housing system, standing between the nest box and feed trough.  Eggs gently roll out of the nest box and down the slanted floor to the egg belt at the front, while manure falls through the floor onto the manure belt.

A closer look at the nest box, where the red shutters provide privacy for the hens to lay their eggs.

A closer look at a perch within the system.  At night, every bird will find a perch to sleep on.

A closer look at a scratching pad within the system.

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Egg Farmers of Alberta and the province’s more than 170 egg farming families enjoy talking to Albertans about eggs and egg farming, which is why EFA founded an Egg Ambassador program several years ago.  This eagerness to share their story about how fresh, locally produced eggs get from their farms to your breakfast tables, is something all Egg Ambassadors across the province are passionate about!

This is why local egg farmers have been bringing a live layer hen display to major agricultural events all over Alberta for the past three years, at events such as the Calgary Stampede, Aggie Days Calgary, Aggie Days Lethbridge, Amazing Agriculture in Edmonton, and the Medicine Hat Stampede.

What Alberta egg farmers would really like to do is open their barn doors and invite everyone out to their farms, to see for themselves what it takes to raise and care for layer hens, and produce high-quality, nutritious local food.  This summer, EFA ran a contest on social media, with the prize being a tour of a local egg farm for two lucky families!

On August 23, the Tabelon family – mother Rochelle, and her three sons Nole, Emerson and Nixon – joined EFA staff for a tour of the egg barn at Brant Colony.  Our gracious hosts, lead by egg manager Darrel Mandel, took the family on a tour of the barn, which included spending time walking with the laying hens and helping to collect eggs laid that morning.

EFA staff is fortunate to have many opportunities to visit egg farms and engage with the farmers we represent.  This consumer tour was a unique opportunity to see the layer barn through the eyes of consumers, including several children, who were interested and intrigued to learn more about where their food comes from.

Barb Glen, a reporter with The Western Producer, also joined the tour and chronicled the adventures of the Tabelon family.  You can read her story and watch a short video she produced here: www.producer.com/2018/09/video-egg-farm-welcomes-contest-winning-visitor/

We look forward to more opportunities to work with our Egg Ambassadors to find unique and engaging ways to share the story of local egg farming, and the fresh, nutritious eggs provided by more than 170 egg farming families from right here in Alberta!

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With consumers being more interested than ever before about the food they eat and feed their families, as well as where it comes from and how it was produced, Alberta egg farmers – Egg Ambassadors – are creating new opportunities to engage Albertans.  Over the past two years, Egg Ambassadors have been appearing in grocery stores across Alberta to talk to consumers about eggs and egg farming, while answering any questions these grocery stores shoppers had for them.

Last summer, 16 Egg Ambassadors appeared in 15 Save-on Foods stores all over the province.  There was tremendously positive feedback from all the farmers, store managers and consumers, who were excited to meet a real local egg farmer and have their questions answered.

EFA’s partnership with Save-on Foods has continued again this year, building off of last year’s success.  Egg Ambassadors appeared in 3 stores in August and another 4 stores in September.  It is a lot of fun for the farmers to get out and meet the people who enjoy eating the nutritious eggs they are proud to provide.  Store managers enjoy giving their loyal shoppers the opportunity to talk directly with the local farmers who supply the fresh, locally produced food.

This year, World Egg Day is on Friday, October 12.  More than 50 egg farmers all across Canada will be appearing in more than 60 grocery stores from coast to coast to coast, including 7 locations here in Alberta.  That afternoon, EFA Egg Ambassadors will be at grocery stores in Edmonton, Calgary, Okotoks and Lethbridge – watch our social media channels for exact locations!

We hope you’ll join us on World Egg Day at a grocery store near you, to enjoy a fresh, nutritious and delicious egg, and celebrate the more than 1,000 egg farming families across the nation (more than 170 in Alberta) who are proud to provide their fellow Canadians with fresh, local eggs every day!

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“An organization no matter how well designed is only as good as the people who live and work on it”. Congratulations to all the producers and EFA staff on a successful fifty years.

EFA and the amazing producers have spent a half a century together – what better cause for an amazing gold celebration! The success that EFA has seen over the last fifty years doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes hard work and dedication to the industry.

Though the EFA name has been changed several times over the past half century, the organization’s core reason for remaining unchanged, as does EFA’s commitment to building a successful and sustainable egg industry.

In 1968, an estimated 31.2 million dozen eggs were produced to feed the population of 1.5 million people. In 2017, Alberta egg farmers produced 61.2 million dozen eggs to feed 4.3 million Albertans. Today there are over 170 registered egg farming families raising over 2.5 million laying hens.

EFA’s top-10 accomplishments from the past decade, in no particular order:

  •  Market growth – we have enjoyed 10 straight years of growth in egg sales and production. Over the past 10 years Alberta has witnessed a 40% increase in issuance, and a 42% increase in the number of eggs produced annually.
  • Sustainability – we developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy, which lead to the creation of our 4 pillars – Healthy Birds, Healthy Eggs, Healthy Farms and Healthy Communities – the publication of the Canadian egg industry’s first Sustainability Report, and multiple stakeholder engagement sessions. We are working with egg farmers and industry stakeholders to cultivate a sustainable egg industry in Alberta, while building public trust with Albertans.
  • Enhanced food safety and animal welfare – we decided to make minimum scores and performance on the on-farm animal care and food safety programs mandatory, and it has been nearly 10 years since all farmers were required to be accredited in the Start Clean – Stay Clean program. Average scores continue to improve every year, despite adjusting and strengthening both programs, demonstrating egg farmers’ passion for caring for their hens and producing safe, nutritious eggs.
  • Hen housing innovation – we initially oversaw the transition from loose housing into cages 50 years ago, due to food safety benefits and ease of management. The past 10 years have seen Canada’s first enrichable and enriched housing systems be installed on Alberta egg farms, and we are now overseeing the transition away from conventional housing.  The egg industry has proven to be adaptable, to both shifting consumer demands and science-based evidence of what is in the best interest of the birds.
  • PEEP – we launched the Producer Environmental Egg Program, the Canadian egg industry’s first on-farm environmental program. PEEP is focused on beneficial practices related to manure management, byproduct use, water consumption, and energy efficiency.  Alberta egg farmers have embraced this voluntary program, expanding their knowledge and making gradual improvements to demonstrate their commitment to environmentally responsible farming, seeing the average score increase from 60% to over 80% over the program’s first five years.
  • Net-zero barn – we partnered with Alberta Agriculture and Brant Colony, to develop and build the egg industry’s first net-zero barn, to showcase the type of innovation that is only possible via collaboration with multiple stakeholders. The net-zero barn is a tremendous learning opportunity for egg farmers across the province, and has become one of our most engaging stories on social media, to explain the complexity and practices of modern egg farming.
  • New Entrant Program – we launched the New Entrant Program to help grow and expand the provincial egg industry, and are proud to have welcomed 20 new egg farming families to our flock. All but one of the new entrants are already in production, and combined they are caring for over 120,000 laying hens.  In the spirit of continuous improvement, we have made modifications over time, and are always exploring opportunities and ideas to further enhance the program.
  • Quota Leasing Pool – we developed the Quota Leasing Pool to facilitate more efficient quota leases and ensure that there is equal access to quota for all egg farmers. Most of Alberta’s egg farmers have already participated in the pool, as either a leasor or leasee, demonstrating how EFA’s commitment to a core founding principle is still going strong 50 years later.
  • Egg Ambassadors – we have witnessed a growing desire among consumers to learn more about where their food comes from and how it was produced. It has become absolutely vital to have a team of trained egg farmers prepared to engage consumers to educate, dispel common myths, and build public trust.  We are proud to now have more than 40 such Egg Ambassadors!
  • Food truck – we worked with AdFarm to run a contest to find a local chef to partner with, to help launch an egg-themed food truck. You’ll hear more about this after lunch, but Chef Jordon and the Crack’d YYC food truck is now serving up delicious egg dishes to Calgarians, with a side order of education and support for the egg industry!

The last decade has certainly been a successful one for Egg Farmers of Alberta, and the entire provincial egg industry! Our success is not ours alone to share. It is with huge thanks to our producers, value chain partners and industry stakeholders for making Alberta’s egg industry what it is today!

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Crack’d YYC is taking over the streets of Calgary, but early this month the truck went back to the heart of farming and visited Fairview Colony just 45 minutes North of the city center.

Photo courtsey of The Calgary Journal

You couldn’t ask for better weather when hosting a foodie tour with one of the most popular food trucks to hit the food scene. Crack’d YYC was born through an EFA funding contest to help support a new food truck venture that focused on eggs. Chef Jordon Henkel pleased all of EFA’s palates with the classic scotch egg with a modern twist of spicy chorizo sausage and delicious homemade jelly on top.

Photo courtesy of The Calgary Journal

Crack’d YYC has now been operating for a couple of months and has received constant raves from people who have had the chance to pop over and try one of his delicious egg-inspired dishes. EFA, unfortunately, cannot have a “for profit” venture while operating as a non-profit business, thus formed the great symmetry through Chef Jordon’s impressive food background and love for the “farm-to-fork” idea of egg farming.

Having the Crack’d YYC food truck downtown Calgary is a great way for EFA to reinforce the local aspect of farming and where eggs come from. All the eggs you buy in the grocery store are local to Alberta and take from 1 to 10 days to reach grocery store shelves.

Click here to read the article published by the Calgary Journal about the experience when they came out for the foodie tour at Fairview Colony.

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We are busy and diving right into our events season here at EFA! Did you know that we do four major events all before the Calgary Stampede? Going out into the community is a great way to interact and engage with new consumers about the egg industry. We often have returning visitors to our booth who come just to stop by because they recognize a farmer or even one of our contractors.

A huge draw to our booth, other than it’s amazing curb appeal, is the hens. Whenever there are live animals at an event, it increases the engagement tenfold. All of a sudden talking about the industry and different concerns with consumers doesn’t seem so pushy when you are feeding and petting a hen. Those girls really know how to bring a crowd in.

Our first stop this year was Easter Eggstravaganza at the Calgary Zoo. This event runs over the Easter weekend and is a great way to engage with the public and encourage them to come out to our other events in town where they are able to interact with farmers and see a furnished housing unit. There was a station where kids created bees out of egg cartons, which EFA supplied. The event brought in large crowds and we’re thrilled to participate year after year!

Our next adventure took us to Aggie Days Calgary, a massive event attended during the week by teachers and students and during the weekend by the public. As you know, we had 15 white hens and 15 brown hens live on location in their beautiful furnished housing unit. The event was a major success and during the weekend, our food truck Crackd’YYC serving up some delicious egg inspired dished for the public. 

We then headed down to our friends in Lethbridge for Aggie Days down there. An event attended by the public for five days. Aggie Days Lethbridge is always a great event because it attracts a lot of rural consumers who have fantastic questions about the industry and where it is going. It also brings in a lot of rural students who love learning about the different colour of eggs and what type of hens produce what colour of egg.

And last but not least, we joined our friends in Edmonton for Amazing Ag! This event is a little different than all the others and has a structured classroom setting where kids come into the booth every 15 minutes and then leave to go to the next booth. This structure, versus a “come-one, come-all”, allows for farmers to engage with the students on a more intimate level and really educate them on the specifics of the hens and the different housing systems in Canada. We had a ton of amazing questions from the kids, as well as the teachers and parents who said they learned something new as well!

This is our second event season bringing our new booth and furnished housing system and it continues to draw in large crowds and compliments from all. We can’t wait for the Calgary Stampede, ten days of amazing conversations with people from all around the world!

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By David Webb, Marketing & Communications Manager, EFA

In response to the request made at EFA’s regional meetings in January for farmers to share their insights and memories to help EFA celebrate its 50th anniversary, a couple experienced Egg Ambassadors have stepped forward to answer the call.  As promised, EFA is proud to share what these farmers had to say.

Levi Hofer, New York Colony:

I have been involved in the Alberta egg industry for the past 20 years, including 15 as the egg manager.  In general, I appreciate EFA being forward thinking, always looking ahead to protect and benefit Alberta producers.  More specifically, I like how EFA now oversees pullets to help the layer industry.  The Producer Environmental Egg Program is an impressive program that really benefits egg farmers, while minimizing their impact on the environment.  Developing the New Entrant Program was a successful way to expand the industry and help keep it innovative.

Mark Hofer, Cayley Colony:

Looking back as a young boy growing up, to where we are now, times have changed dramatically.  As the years have gone by, we as producers must keep up with this ever-changing industry to survive.  All the new technology and the new rules changes every year, make us leaders in this industry.  This is why supply management in the egg industry works for us.

As an Egg Ambassador, we as producers can meet our customers and get to share our knowledge, and get their feedback so we can make this a great industry.  The public has to understand how our trade works and operates.  They also have to understand that we produce the best quality eggs, and we as egg farmers get to eat those eggs too.

Lets not forget the great team we have at the EFA office, who put in a lot of time and effort to make this a thriving and successful industry.  They are always looking to improve and to market eggs.  Keep up the great work and here’s to a brighter future ahead!

EFA plans to celebrate our 50th anniversary throughout 2018, and we welcome any insights, reflections and memories that egg farmers across Alberta have to share!  Please contact David or Angie at the EFA office to share your story.

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