Egg Farmers of Alberta currently recommends that no new conventional cages be placed on Alberta egg farms, and reiterates that Alberta egg farmers have always had the ability to choose from conventional cages, enriched cages, free run and aviary hen housing systems. In fact, the first enriched cage housing system in Canada was placed on an egg farm in Alberta in 2010. Alberta farmers care deeply about animal welfare and food safety, as egg farming truly is their life and livelihood.
Egg Farmers of Canada formally requested a code review in 2011, which is a two-year process that is now underway, as announced in a National Farm Animal Care Council (NFAAC) media release from January, 2012.
The egg industry is actively involved with such organizations as the Alberta Farm Animal Care Association (AFAC) and the Alberta SPCA to ensure sound animal-husbandry practices are used.
While Alberta has not exported egg products since 2008, global market events do affect the industry here. Some of the most notable changes include a 1999 EU directive on animal welfare which banned the sale of eggs from hens kept in battery cages. At the time that the ban was ratified, 93 per cent of EU eggs came from hens in battery cages. While floor area of a typical cage is 450 square centimetres, egg producers must now supply hens with at least 800 square centimetres.
The EU allowed producers a 12-year phase-out period, bringing the ban into effect on January 1, 2012. There are a number of alternative systems now in place in the EU, including aviary system, free-run housing, free range and what are known as “enriched” or “furnished” cages. However, this change has resulted in supply shortages, increasing the price of eggs by an average of 75 per cent across the European Union in the last six months.
In the United States, the United Egg Producers (UEP) announced, in July 2011, that it joined with the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) to petition Congress to adopt a national standard for egg production that will phase out the conventional cage housing in favour of enriched colony cage housing.
The bill would require the nation’s egg producers to switch to larger, enriched-colony cages for egg-laying hens over the next 15 to 18 years at a cost UEP has estimated at $4 billion. UEP represents 200 commercial egg farms and about 85 per cent of the national production.