Last Friday was world-wide EGG DAY. This month is Egg Month in Ontario. Eggs are becoming more interesting to people of all walks of life in Canada. Our consumption is up, our choices are amazingly varied. Eggs are fascinating, new and cool.
This is amazing to me, since eggs and chickens have been a part of my everyday life since I was 4. My first “job” paid me $2 per week to pick the eggs on the bottom tier of cages in my grandparents’ barn. Mom picked the rest of the eggs, and it was more about keeping me occupied than getting me to do something productive.
It was also the first job I got fired from, too. I was caught throwing eggs at the rats that lived in the manure gutters under the chicken cages. Grandma wasn’t impressed….then Mom wasn’t impressed…..then I was unemployed…..my therapist says I’m making good progress though….
A silly little story, but (unfortunately) completely true. The funny thing is, that barn is the type of place that most “investigative” video footage on the web come from. This barn was typical of (gulp) 1975, but the science and care of laying hens has changed a LOT since then. Materials used in cages….cage sizes….group size….water design…..feed delivery…..slope of the floor….manure management…..all these things have changed in ways that have improved the lives of the hens and the farmers.
Other things have changed in chicken barns too. The projects and organizations I am currently involved with, and the different aspects of egg farming that are being improved upon are really extensive:
- I am working with the National Farmed Animal Care Council and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association to help develop national welfare codes of practice
- I just helped make a biosecurity instructional video with the Poultry Industry Council, a research group that funds and organizes a lot of poultry studies
- I’m involved with the Ontario One Health organization that is a co-operative group of public health, poultry vets, environmental planners and many other groups to prepare for any type of zoonotic disease outbreak such as influenza
- I consult with the Egg Farmers of Ontario to develop practical, sustainable, and responsible programs for the professional egg farmers in the province
- I work with the Ontario Association of Poultry Practitioners to improve poultry health, egg quality and food safety
- I consult, discuss and share ideas with people from Ontario Farm Animal Council, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and several municipalities and city councils on subjects ranging from animal welfare, food safety, disease control, emergency response, backyard flocks and food safety
To make a long story short, there are a lot of good organizations with great people working on innovations and improvements on all aspects of egg farming. It is a great time to be involved in this sector of agriculture…..this ain’t your grandfathers chicken barn anymore….
So, go out and enjoy Egg Month. You can be comfortable and confident in the eggs you find in the grocery store, farmers market, farm gate, or your backyard….the safety, quality, sustainability and compassion are being analysed, assessed, and improved upon constantly.
Mike the Chicken Vet