Friday, January 27, 2017

Enhanced cages may not suffice

Directors of the Ontario Egg producers marketing board are playing a risky game, offering income incentives to farmers to transition to “enhanced cages” for laying hens.

It may not suffice to satisfy the animal-rights organizations that have pressured retailers, such as McDonald’s and A&W, to set deadlines by which they will no longer buy eggs if the hens that laid them are housed in cages.

The declarations do not say anything about “enhanced cages”. They just say no cages, period.

If the Ontario industry is not ready, the retailers who want cage-free eggs will be able to go to the federal government to say they can’t get what they want.

They will ask for import permits so they can import, without tariffs, from other countries, most likely the United States.

There egg producers are well underway preparing for the upcoming free-cage egg demands.

So far I have learned of only one producer – significantly the largest one in Ontario with a director on the Ontario egg board – who is investing heavily to build cage-free facilities.

But that barn is being built in Quebec.

I have also heard from another large-volume Ontario egg producer who tried cage-free housing and vows he will never try it again.

He said the barn was so dusty nobody wanted to work in it.

And who wants to collect eggs? And suffer increased mortality because hens are walking in their poop and bullying each other?

If the directors of the Ontario egg board – or perhaps just their general manager – are so convinced that enhanced cages are the way to go, they had better set up appointments with those retailers to make sure they’re on board.