Industry UpdatePoultry

Sunny Side Up for BC’s Egg Industry

Paul Pryce

British Columbia’s egg industry may not be Canada’s largest—the province accounts for only 12.5% of Canadian laying egg hatcheries— but it certainly shows substantial leadership in agri-tech innovation.

For example, for consumers who show an increasing interest in animal welfare and how their food is produced, it is interesting to note that BC has the highest percentage of cage-free hens in all of Canada. This leaves BC ahead of the curve when it comes to the commitment by Egg Farmers of Canada to phase out new battery cages by 2036.

As such, egg farmers in Ontario and Quebec may soon be taking pointers from their BC counterparts. At the 2017 Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, the BC Egg Marketing Board displayed a new system for holding non-free-range or organic hens, which features greater perch space per bird, a scratch area, and a more efficient means of disposing waste. The export of such technologies to egg producers in other provinces in the lead-up to 2036 will add another dynamic to BC agriculture, namely the development and production of high-quality farm equipment.

Just as important, BC is at the forefront of developing new egg products in North America. It is worth noting, for example, that Vanderpol’s Eggs Ltd. of Abbotsford is working to commercialize locally produced tamago, the sweet cooked omelette-like egg often used in sushi.

Neova Technologies, which is also based in Abbotsford, uses proteins derived from BC eggs, such as lysozyme or avidin, in the production of various pharmaceuticals.

Expanding into new markets and exploring unconventional uses for egg products is vital to the future growth of the industry; in 2016, per capita consumption of eggs in Canada reached 19.9 dozen, ending a period of substantial growth in egg consumption since 2009. This growth in domestic demand coincided with a need for a cheaper protein source, as prices for beef and poultry rose at grocery stores, as well as the provision of new processed egg products for a health-conscious customer base, such as egg whites, yolk-free omelettes, and so on.

The race is on to find ways to move beyond peak egg consumption in North America. That might be achieved through BC-conceived biopharmaceutical and cosmetic products, or through a new take on an old staple, like tamago.

Alternatively, Canada may need to seek new markets— Japan leads the world in egg consumption, with per capita consumption at approximately 26.6 dozen per year, while China closely follows at 25.0 dozen. It will be much easier for BC egg producers, located as close as they are to the Pacific, to crack into these markets.

Paul Pryce

Paul Pryce Paul Pryce is political advisor to the Consul General of Japan in Calgary, in which role his responsibilities include enhancing agricultural ties between Japan and Western Canada. Previously, through his affiliation with UPH Analytics, a research institute at Indonesia’s leading private university, Paul wrote widely on production and price trends in Southeast Asia’s agricultural industry. You can connect with him via email: paul.l.pryce@gmail.com.
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