While taking care of our farm animals is our number one priority, we also want to sustain the environment in which we work, live and play. Like you, we are dependent on a clean environment so that our families may live healthy and happy lives and we, like our parents and grandparents before us, are firmly dedicated to our responsibilities as stewards of the land. We live in the same communities as you do; our water comes from the same sources and the hens that produce the eggs for our families also produce the eggs you eat. Most of us live on the same property as our egg farms so taking good care of the environment in our day-to-day activities just makes good sense.
We are committed to protecting our waterways, our air and our land for the next generation. One of the ways we do this is through our manure management practices. Hen manure is a natural fertilizer for crops. It promotes organic matter or life in the soil while enhancing soil water retention, reducing weeds and encouraging root growth necessary for crops. Gardeners recognize the importance of manure by adding it to their flower or vegetable plots in the spring, prior to planting. That’s what we are doing, though on a larger scale.
Egg farmers store hen manure for up to one year before spreading it on fields and incorporating it into the soil. We maintain this storage away from natural waterways and our manure storage tanks, sheds or pits are built to prevent contamination of underground water. If we grow crops on our farms, we use the manure produced by our hens. If not, we sell it and in most cases, we are selling to others who live nearby, thereby minimizing our carbon footprint.
Egg production in Canada is designed to minimize transportation emissions. First, eggs are produced in all 10 provinces, as well as the Northwest Territories. Our system of supply management establishes production quotas, or the amount of eggs to be produced across the country, to make sure there are enough eggs to meet demand. This prevents surpluses that would waste energy to produce in the first place and then would be required to be exported to other countries, most of which are fully able to produce enough eggs for their own populations. Secondly, grading stations which wash the eggs are dotted throughout the country, minimizing inter-provincial transportation emissions. Finally, many of us grow our own pullets, or the young birds before they are mature enough to lay eggs, and grow our own feed, thereby further keeping transport to a minimum.
Plastic, Styrofoam and pulp fibre egg cartons are accepted for recycling though acceptance of materials varies in municipalities across Canada. Fibre cartons can also be composted and are accepted in many municipal composting programs.
Egg and poultry meat farming are among the most environmentally friendly agriculture sectors. Research in the United Kingdom examined several factors including energy used, land required and gases emitted and found egg farming among the best sectors for its environmental impact. Here in Canada, some egg farmers are using alternative energy sources such as small wind turbines and solar panels and are even exploring the feasibility of manure biodigesters.
Sustainability is about preserving our resources and that includes poultry genes. While most egg production relies on a few major strains of hens, pockets of rare or minor strains are cared for by poultry specialists at agricultural universities and by other enthusiasts. You can sometimes see these unusual poultry at fall fairs or winter exhibitions. Or perhaps you have come across a blue egg or unusually marked egg from one of these different strains. We congratulate these enthusiasts not only for maintaining an important part of our rural heritage, but also for preserving these strains of birds.