Canadian egg farmers humane hen housing switch to take 20 years

Fri Feb 5, 2016 1:25pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba Feb 5 (Reuters) - Canada's egg farmers plan to replace conventional hen cages with more humane conditions over the next 20 years, amid growing pressure from consumers, restaurants and food companies.

The plan, announced Friday by Egg Farmers of Canada, an industry group that manages nearly all of the country's egg supply, comes as McDonald's Corp and others set targets for only buying eggs that come from cage-free hens.

"This isn't something we've done because of companies making announcements," said Roger Pelissero, an Ontario egg farmer. "We always have in our mind what is best for our hens."

Ninety percent of Canada's eggs come from hens in wire cages commonly known as battery cages, which are slightly larger than filing cabinet drawers and hold several birds each. The plan aims to switch half of the country's egg-laying farms to other methods within eight years.

About 85 percent of farms will switch within 15 years, and a complete transformation should happen by 2036.

"This announcement is a huge shift and we're confident the market will make it happen before 2036," said Sayara Thurston, a campaigner with Humane Society International, adding that U.S. farmers have not made a similar pledge.

The two-decade target is intended to protect farmers from financial hardship, as non-conventional systems are more expensive, Pelissero said.

Canadian farmers will move to several alternatives, including larger cages with amenities like nesting boxes and perches; housing that allow hens access to the entire barn floor; and farms that allow them outdoors.   Continued...