Until the 1940s, the production of eggs in British Columbia was typically a spin-off of other general farming activities. The number of flock owners was quite large while flock sizes tended to be small. Egg prices fluctuated widely from time to time. In times of low egg prices, many farmers simply stopped producing eggs.
Things began to change in the late 1940s and early 1950s when interest in production improvements led to a tendency toward larger operations, a trend that continued into the 1960s. The introduction of new production methods and facilities, ranging from genetic improvement in laying stock and improved hen health through more hygienic housing systems to automated processing and increased food safety, further served to reduce the number of egg farmers and to increase the capital investment needed for egg production and processing.
Supply often surpassed consumer demand which resulted in producer prices sagging well below the cost of production. The combination of constant price fluctuations and the ever-present threat of production losses caused great instability and lack of confidence for the future of egg farmers. The year 1966 was particularly disastrous for the BC egg industry.
At farmers’ request, a plebiscite was held in mid-1967 under provincial government auspices. Egg farmers voted 73% in favour of the Marketing Board Plan that had been presented by a joint poultry committee in 1966.
The British Columbia Egg Marketing Board (BCEMB) became a legal entity by Order in Council No. 2263 on July 13th, 1967 – the first egg marketing board in Canada with quota
Egg Industry in British Columbia
Since its inception in 1967 as the first egg marketing board in Canada with quota, the British Columbia Egg Marketing Board (BCEMB) serves as a non-profit, producer organization financed solely by its Registered Producers through a levy system. The BCEMB receives no government funding. The BCEMB is one of eleven provincial and territorial egg marketing boards that meet under the umbrella of the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) to address industry issues of regional, national and international importance.
The Natural Products Marketing (British Columbia) Act and the British Columbia Egg Marketing Scheme, 1967 authorize the BCEMB to promote, control, and regulate the production, transportation, packing, storage, and marketing of all eggs in British Columbia, including the prohibition of all or part of these activities.
All Canadian registered egg farmers produce eggs through a system of supply management. Under supply management, registered farmers in BC obtain quota from the BCEMB. Together with quota, pricing, and industrial product removal, supply management creates a stable marketing environment characterized by stable egg prices and supply to the consumer and fair returns for the farmer, thereby avoiding fluctuations in egg prices and supply at the provincial and national levels. The BCEMB also acts on behalf of egg farmers, giving them a stronger voice in the egg industry.
Canada's egg industry enjoys a reputation for producing a choice of nutritious, wholesome, and safe eggs and egg products for Canadian families. The assurance of food safety for Canadian eggs is validated at several levels.
Food safety begins at the farm. Egg producers take their responsibility seriously for providing consumers with eggs of the highest possible quality. This desire for quality begins with provincial Standing Orders and the Recommended Code of Practice that govern the hens' health, environment, and care during egg production, transportation, and humane fowl removal. Responsible farm management remains the key to healthy hens and safe, nutritious eggs for all operation types.
Biosecurity signs at farm entrances warn unauthorized people against entering property and buildings, thus protecting the hens from the accidental spread of bacterial pathogens. Field staff regularly test barns to ensure that the hens' environment and feed are free from Salmonella enteritidis (Se) contamination. As a result, only one in a million Canada Grade A eggs is estimated to be infected with Se, making Se contamination very rare in Canada. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the other hand, estimates that one in every twenty thousand American eggs may be infected from within the shell.
The BC Egg Marketing Board (BCEMB) works with the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) to administer the national HACCP*-based Start Clean Stay Clean™ Program. EFC field staff collaborates with producers to identify any biological, chemical or physical hazards in the egg production unit and then recommends controls and farm management practices to minimize or eliminate possible risks.
Through its food safety regulations, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) ensures that temperature fluctuations are avoided within the refrigeration chain as the egg moves from the farm to the table. Agency inspectors visit all federally-licensed grading stations and all producer-graders, and are present in all breaking plants to ensure that eggs are kept at temperatures between 11-12°C (52-54°F).
About 129 Registered Producers in British Columbia raise almost 2.4 million layer hens, which in turn produce about 60 million dozen eggs. Ninety-three egg producers are located in the Lower Mainland, eighteen producers are located in the Interior, and eighteen producers are located on Vancouver Island. This ensures a stable supply of safe and locally-produced eggs. The average egg farm raises 17,000 hens. The egg industry contributes over $95 million to the provincial economy.
The BC Egg Marketing Board (BCEMB) issues quota to registered egg producers. An egg producer is legally required to obtain quota from the BCEMB if they have more than 99 birds. Registered producers with quota are bound by the BCEMB’s Standing Order to produce eggs according to provincial and federal legislation.
Registered egg producers also follow the Recommended Code of Practice. This Code was developed jointly by various groups including veterinarians, scientists, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, egg producers, and egg processors to provide the best quality of humane care to hens. Hens are housed in clean, well-ventilated buildings with controlled climate and feeding systems. They are provided a constant supply of clean water and a balanced, nutritious diet.
In BC, about 88% of eggs are produced by hens that are housed in a conventional cage system. This hygienic housing system separates the hens and eggs from their waste. This allows for easy monitoring of the hens' health, and results in high food safety and vastly reduces the need for veterinary intervention. Conventional systems ensure that the hens are comfortable by providing nutritious feed, clean water, and fresh air. Hens are also protected from predators.
The remaining 12% of BC eggs are produced by hens raised in various flock management systems. These eggs are called Specialty Eggs which include free run, free range, and certified organic free range eggs, including many with specific feed requirements.
All Canadian eggs are produced to high standards of cleanliness, quality, and freshness.
Eggs are collected twice daily, placed in sanitized plastic flats, and stored in a cooler room at 11-12°C (52-54°F). Producer-Graders are egg farmers who are federally-licensed to grade and market their own eggs. Otherwise, eggs are picked up from the farm by refrigerated trucks and taken to the egg grading station, usually within four days of the eggs being laid.
Grading stations pick up eggs from the farm, wash and grade the eggs, and pack them into cartons or flats for sale to the retailer and foodservice industries, and to hospitals and other institutions. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) sets the standards for grading and sizing eggs. The CFIA also sets operating and food safety regulations for all graders, establishes standards for the three categories of egg grades, and conducts inspections to ensure that these standards are met.
Eggs may be picked up from the egg farm by one of the four larger federally-licensed egg grading stations located in Abbotsford, Westholme (north of Duncan) on Vancouver Island, Kamloops, or Terrace.
The grading process begins by washing and sanitizing the eggs as they pass through a high speed tunnel washer. The eggs are candled by passing them over a strong light to make the interior of the egg visible. The grader determines the grade of the eggs by checking the condition of the shell, the size of the air cell, and whether the yolk is well-centered.
As of December 12, 2007, nutrition labeling on prepackaged foods, including eggs, became mandatory in Canada. Amendments to Health Canada regulations in the Food and Drugs Act include instructions for presenting information on egg cartons and boxes that provide nutrition facts, nutrient claims, and health claims. A Nutrition Facts table is now printed on all egg cartons
Approximately 18% of all egg production in British Columbia is sent to the breaking plant in Abbotsford to be made into liquid, frozen, or dried egg products.
Once the refrigerated eggs are received from the grading station, the eggs are sent to special machines that break the eggs by the thousands. If required, egg yolks can be separated from the egg whites. Whole or separated, the eggs are then pasteurized and sent in bulk form to bakeries, restaurants and food manufacturing customers who use them in their products. Egg products are also used in pharmaceuticals and in non-food products such as shampoo, pet foods, and adhesives.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) sets operating and food safety regulations for breaking plants and CFIA inspectors are present in the breaking plant to ensure that these regulations are met.