Coded eggs stand out from most others produced in Ontario

Eggs stamped with an alphanumeric code

Eggs stamped with an alphanumeric code

By Treena Hein for Farm & Food Care

(St-Isidore) It’s easy to tell a Ferme Avicole Laviolette egg from others being sold in Ontario. Each one has an alphanumeric code that signifies the date of packaging, batch date and producer. Every time their customers see the stamp, they are reminded that Laviolettes take quality and accountability very seriously. The code is also an important food safety measure, helping make any product recall both fast and accurate. For being the first in the province to implement traceability that goes beyond the carton, Marcel Laviolette recently won a 2014 Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

By 2012, the year Marcel implemented the automated egg stamping system, his business’s sales territory was quite large, including dozens of grocery stores, restaurants and food wholesalers in eastern Ontario and southwest Quebec. At that time, food safety and traceability were all over the media, and being discussed at dinner tables across the nation, within the government and within the food and agriculture industry. Marcel knew that his many customers would feel that much more comfortable if each egg was stamped, something that was being done in other jurisdictions. And for the local egg producers that use Laviolette’s grading station (and make up two thirds of his egg volume), stamping would provide added peace of mind. Lastly, having coded eggs should help increase sales, being a preferred product in terms of traceability and food safety concerns. “We wanted to stand out,” Marcel explained. Continue reading

A different kind of hen house

By Lisa McLean, Farm & Food Care

(Elora) It takes a few minutes for the hens at Elora-based Swan Creek Layer Farms Ltd. to adjust to visitors. They move quickly out of the way when the gate opens, fly across the aisles to new levels, and move out of reach. Eventually, their curiosity gets the best of them and they return to fill the empty spaces they abandoned just moments ago. The birds settle on their perches that are close to the visitors. A few hens walk along the ladders that connect one level to the next.

Bob (left) and Dave Ottens in their aviary-style layer barn.

Bob (left) and Dave Ottens in their aviary-style layer barn.

The hens – egg-laying “layer” birds – live in an aviary-style egg barn, which allows them free access to move through various levels of their space. Lighting helps guide them to private nesting boxes in the back of each level where they lay eggs in sheltered areas and access food and water on demand.

For Ontario egg farmers, this is a different kind of egg barn. Conventional layer barns house several hens in cages, or in newer “enriched” facilities that have built-in perches and nesting boxes. The aviary barn is designed to allow the hens to move freely in a large space.

And the new barn provides a benefit for farmers too – Dave and Bob Ottens, brothers who own the operation, can sell eggs from this barn into a certified “free run” market, which fetches them a premium on the eggs produced here.

“For us, this is a way of adding choice for consumers – the aviary gives us the opportunity to diversify by producing free-run eggs,” says Dave Ottens. “I don’t have a problem eating eggs from conventionally-raised hens, but some consumers want the option of free-run eggs, and they are willing to pay more for that choice.” Continue reading

Fournier-area egg farmers featured as “April” in 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Lynn, Jessica, Veronique and Valerie Longtin’s Faces of Farming calendar page

Lynn, Jessica, Veronique and Valerie Longtin’s Faces of Farming calendar page

When city girl Lynn first met her husband Daniel, everything in her life changed. She fell quickly in love with the farmer – and his farm life. Decades later, Lynn and Daniel Longtin are now third generation egg farmers with daughters Jessica, Veronique, and Valerie making up the fourth generation of egg farming on the same home farm.

In 2015, Lynn and her daughters appear in the tenth anniversary Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by Egg Farmers of Ontario and they are featured for the month of April.

Lynn and Daniel met at a youth retreat in 1984. In the earlier stages of their relationship, they both worked off the farm. Daniel started working on the farm with his father in 1992. Eight years later, Lynn and Daniel bought the farm.

Today, Lynn, Jessica, Veronique and Valerie all play an active role in the family business. Currently, the farm is home to 17,000 laying hens, which lay about 120,000 eggs per week. Continue reading

A Saskatchewan Farm(er)

By Laura Reiter

I am involved in one of the over 36,000 farms in Saskatchewan. Now if you are like most folks, a picture or two will have popped into your head when you hear “Saskatchewan farms”.
This …

Combining on the Canadian prairies

Combining on the Canadian prairies

Or maybe this …

Cowboys on their horses moving cattle in winter

Cowboys on their horses moving cattle in winter

You’d be right in thinking that grain and cattle operations make up the majority of the farms in Saskatchewan. But there is so much more!

Continue reading

Third generation egg farmer proud to continue family tradition

By Andrew Campbell

St. Ann’s – Eggs have always been a part of Jacob Pelissero’s life. He grew up on his family farm, helping to gather eggs, feed and care for the hens. And, as an egg farmer, he’s proud of the fact that he learned to make a great omelet while he was still a child.

Third-generation egg farmer Jacob Pelissero is proud to continue the family farm tradition.

Third-generation egg farmer Jacob Pelissero is proud to continue the family farming tradition.

But for his family, the path to egg farming wasn’t direct. It didn’t come until his grandfather started losing customers in the original family business – ice. Many decades ago, that business was big around St. Catharine’s, where the family would deliver ice throughout the summer to homes to keep their ice boxes cool.

But then a remarkable new invention, the refrigerator, started making an incredible surge into homes, replacing the need for ice deliveries. Realizing that his business was collapsing, Jacob’s grandfather had to do something to support his family.

Finally it came to him. He already knew the residents of his community and which of them had purchased refrigerators. Why not provide something that could be stored in them – like farm fresh eggs. That idea started a new career for the Pelissero family and three generations later, Jacob couldn’t be happier. “Egg farming is an incredible way of life. When you take care of the chickens, they take care of you.”

On top of producing fresh eggs, his family also raises pullets. This is the term used to describe young hens from the time they’re hatched until they’re old enough to lay eggs. Once mature, the grown laying hens then move to live on egg farms across Ontario.

Pelissero has just graduated with a degree in agriculture business from the University of Guelph and is looking forward to the time when he joins his father on the family farm.

Why continue the career? “The short answer is because I enjoy it. The long answer, because I love the idea of managing my own business, and caring for the birds that have supported my family for so many years.”

One thing that he’s especially excited about is a new hen barn that was constructed last summer. The barn has a new – but increasingly popular – feature in Canada called enriched cages. These offer room for hens to lay their eggs in a curtained nest, perch, and enjoy constant access to fresh food and water that all hen housing provides. Said Pelissero, “I think this type of construction is a perfect balance between a clean and safe environment for the bird, farmer and the egg.”

This young farmer has also taken to social media to tell his family’s stories. He is a member of the new Dinner Starts Here blogging and Twitter initiative that features young farmers talking about their lives on Ontario farms.

“Talking about the effort and care that goes into every egg is something I’m proud to do, and hope other farmers do as well. It is more important than ever before that consumers understand where their food comes from.”

Pelissero also notes that part of the reason he wants to talk about his farm is because he feels there are misconceptions about egg farming. “If I can help someone understand where their egg comes from, how the birds are cared for and the quality control measures that go into producing eggs, I know that person will feel good about feeding them to their family.”

Pelissero also works part time for Gray Ridge Egg Farms, where he offers advice to other egg farmers on how they can improve their own farms through animal nutrition and egg handling. “I’m confident in every egg that is collected, washed, graded, packed and put into your local grocery store because I see what goes into ensuring that a Grade A egg is a safe and nutritious egg.”

By following the blog at www.dinnerstartshere.ca and Jacob’s tweets @Jakeandeggs, you’ll be able to learn more about what he is talking about.

Questions about animal and food production – answered!

Jean L Clavelle

Farm Food Care Saskatchewan

 

I was really excited to take part in Farm and Food Care Ontario’s twitter party a few weeks ago to promote the launch of their latest venture – ”Real Dirt on Farming”.  This is a booklet designed to answer all of your questions about farming and food production in Canada.  It is the real dirt so to speak on everything from livestock to crops to horticulture. It was great to see so many questions from all of you and how interested you were in how your food is grown.  The sad part was that it ended way too soon, and there was so much more to share!  On that note I would like to answer some questions about food production to make your decisions about food purchases easier.

Eggs with darker coloured yolks are healthier.  There are actually no nutritional differences between eggs with different coloured yolks.  The colour of the yolk is dependent on what a hen eats.  Any diet for hens that includes a compound called xanthophylls will result in a darker yolk. A hen that eats a wheat-based diet (more common in western Canada and low in xanthophylls) will produce an egg that has a pale yellow yolk. Hens that eat a corn-based diet (most common in Ontario and higher in xanthophylls) will produce eggs with darker yellow yolks.  This is also why free range eggs tend to be darker in the summer because hens will eat grasses or alfalfa which have higher xanthophyll levels.

White and brown eggs come from chickens of different breeds

White and brown eggs come from chickens of different breeds

Eggs with brown shells are better because they are more expensive!  Ummm, no.  There are no nutritional differences between eggs with white shells and eggs with brown shells.  Eggs with brown shells come from different breeds of chickens.  But then why do brown eggs cost more?  Well that’s because the breed that produces brown eggs is a larger bird and requires more feed to lay one egg.  Brown eggs are more expensive simply because it costs more to grow them.

Conventional milk produced in Canada is raised with hormones.  Not so!  Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a hormone that occurs naturally in cattle.  It regulates growth and lactation in cattle and has no effect on humans.  Recombinant bST otherwise known as rBST is a commercially produced version of the natural hormone and it can increase milk production by 10 to 15%.  The problem however is that it may also increase the risk of mastitis and infertility and cause lameness in cows which is why Health Canada has not approved it for use in dairy production here.  So what that means for you is that no milk, cheese or yogurt (conventional or organic) comes from cows given rBST. Continue reading

Three generations working together on Barrie egg farm

Harry's been farming since he was 15, but his grandson Colton has him beat. He's been helping on his family's egg farm since he was four.

Harry’s been farming since he was 15, but his grandson Colton has him beat. He’s been helping his family on their three generation egg farm since he was four.

 

By Pat Grotenhuis

(Innisfil) – Like many children his age, ten-year-old Colton Wohlgemuth enjoys playing hockey and baseball. Unlike many of his friends, though, he also has been helping on his family’s egg farm since he was four.

Wohlgemuth enjoys having the chance to work alongside his parents, grandparents and sisters on the family’s egg farm. His grandfather, Harry Eisses, is proud of the fact that three generations of his family are now involved in the business.

“It was always a family farm, and when our daughter and son-in-law came back to work with us it was thrilling,” says Eisses. Continue reading

Idle hands are hard to find for this young farmer

(Winterbourne) – Ninety-eight percent of Canadian farms continue to be family owned and operated, but if you are looking for the definition of a family farm,  just look to Scott Snyder and his family.

Scott is a sixth generation farmer in Waterloo Region, working with his father, grandfather and uncle doing everything from producing eggs and grains to feeding beef cattle and boiling maple sap for syrup. “Idle hands isn’t something my family believes in,” says Scott.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Like a lot of Ontario farm kids, Snyder enjoyed growing up in an environment where he learned from his family to care for the cattle and chickens or help drive a tractor that was being used to plant a crop. “Growing up with it, being surrounded by it, meant I could appreciate it,” as Snyder thinks back to his childhood. “I had friends who didn’t grow up on a farm, but always wanted to come out to help. That helped me realize how lucky I was to grow up the way I did.” Continue reading

Meet the face of November in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

By Patricia Grotenhuis

Passionate about telling the public about her family’s 200 year old egg farm in Eastern Ontario, Stephanie Campbell has undertaken a number of projects to achieve her goal.

Campbell’s agricultural awareness efforts have spanned her local area, the campus of the University of Guelph, and various events across Ontario.  They have even led to the creation of YouTube videos to share her message with a broader audience.  In 2013, Stephanie will be featured as the face of November in the Faces of Farming Calendar published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Her appearance in the calendar is sponsored collectively by the Farmers Feed Cities campaign and by Burnbrae Farms.

“I enjoy showing my urban friends the farming life. We try to hold open houses and barn tours at least once a year,” says Campbell.

Stephanie Campbell is the face of November in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

Stephanie Campbell is the face of November in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

During her time at Guelph while she completed her Crop Science degree, Campbell was secretary of the Poultry Club.  Within two years the club increased to 60 members from 30, and had members both with and without agriculture backgrounds.The poultry club’s main objective was to get students interested and involved in the poultry industry.  They toured farms, worked on a video in partnership with the Poultry Industry Council, and worked with the Turkey Farmers of Ontario on website projects. Continue reading

A poultry vet responds to this week's activist videos

Guest blog by Dr. Mike Petrik, Ontario poultry veterinarian

(reprinted with permission from http://mikethechickenvet.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/response-to-activist-video/#comments)

This blog post is one I was hoping not to have to write. In Canada, there was recently an “investigative report” on the commercial egg industry. It developed after an animal activist group took undercover footage and passed an edited video to a television newsmagazine. The resulting 30 minute show was a black eye to the professional farmers, and has caused a stir in the public. I am disappointed in the response from the industry groups to address this attack, so I am writing this blog post in hopes of doing my part. This commentary does not represent any organization, and is entirely my own opinion.

First, let me point out some of the issues that are at play in animal activist videos in general.

1) Modern farms are large. This is daunting to most non-agricultural people. Looking at a barn with 10,000 chickens is as alien to you as me looking at an auto assembly plant, or a brewery, or a company that makes computer components. The shock of seeing the alien environment is leveraged by insinuating that it is impossible to care for large groups of hens. The fact is, there are basically as many laying hens in Canada as there are people. The farms are large because so many people live in cities and towns and don’t have time or interest in raising their own food. 30 Million chickens have to live somewhere in Canada if we want to continue to eat eggs the way we do now. Interestingly, the average flock size in Canada is smaller than anywhere else in the developed world….in the US, farms are between 50 and 100 times as large.

2) Activist videos are not what they seem. No, I’m not saying they fake them (although that has happened in some cases). What you need to realize is that the activist takes video for 4-5 months, then edits the video into the worst possible 15 minutes possible. The mandate of animal activists is to stop the use of animals…..all animals. They aren’t interested in showing the truth….if false representation helps them stop a process they see as immoral, that is very acceptable to them. Think about what this means. Imagine someone secretly taping you interacting with your kids or coworkers for months, and then trying to make you look bad. Imagine going through 4 months of footage of baseball games, and clipping out batters getting hit, hard slides, collisions at the plate, then make a 15 minute video of how baseball should be stopped because it is too violent. If the people watching were from the interior of China where people are unfamiliar with baseball, what would their opinion of the sport be? Continue reading