Egg producers expand cages

April 6, 2007
Barry Wilson
The Western Producer, Ottawa Bureau

Canada's egg industry is attempting to head off increased pressure from animal rights activists by introducing a voluntary program of increased on-farm cage space for each bird, beginning next year.

Egg farmers who aren't complying by April 1, 2008, with cage density guidelines first developed in 2003 will not be eligible for an "animal care program rating."

Inspectors will monitor on-farm compliance.

Newer cages will need to provide white hens an average 67 sq. inches of cage space and brown hens 75 sq. inches. It is the first attempt to set industry-wide standards.

Producers with cages bought before 2004 have slightly lower requirements to meet.

Some producers may be forced to reduce their flocks to accommodate existing space or spend money to expand facilities.

"There is no doubt this will cost some farmers some money, but it is a cost of doing business," Canadian Egg Marketing Agency chair Laurent Souligny said in an interview March 21 during the CEMA annual meeting.

The CEMA board approved the policy this winter after demonstrators targeted the industry several times last year demanding an end to cages.

Harold Froese, a CEMA director from Manitoba and head of the committee that proposed the new policy, said the industry is trying to implement a voluntary program in an effort to avoid mandatory regulations.

Froese said the main threat is from the well-funded U.S. Federation of Humane Societies, which is moving its anti-cage activism into Canada.

"I happen to be from a province where the animal rights movement is extremely active and what we're trying to do is work with producers so in future, animal rights folks don't put pressure on retailers and then all of a sudden the retailers say, 'if you want to sell eggs through us, these are the requirements,' " he said.