Morinville Colony claims Alta. egg producer crown

Farm of the year | Colony has perfect record with 20,000 hens

MORINVILLE, Alta. — The egg farm of the year award is like winning the Stanley Cup, said the manager of the Morinville Colony egg barn.

“It’s a real achievement. You feel like you’ve really accomplished something,” said Paul Wurz, during a tour of the colony’s 20,000 hen laying barn.

The Morinville Colony was awarded the title for 2013 at a recent Alberta Egg Producers event, beating out 157 other producers for the award.

“That’s a pretty good accomplishment. That just feels really good,” said Paul Wurz.

To be in the running, the barn must receive 100 percent on all its farm audits, including chicken counts and salmonella tests. The daily record of the hens’ feed, water, barn temperature and any problems must all be accurately recorded.

“They really make sure you’re doing what you say you’re doing,” said Wurz, who received second place in the competition the previous year.

“You’ve got to keep it really clean. I don’t want to see anyone get sick from eggs,” he said.

The chickens live in traditional cages, but the cages are made of plastic to help reduce feather loss.

“We want to keep them as comfortable as possible.”

The Morinville Colony has raised laying hens at their farm northwest of Edmonton since the colony was established in 1970. Ten years ago, they built a new egg barn and expanded from 7,000 to 20,000 hens.

Every day, 20,000 eggs are laid, then washed, graded and packed and shipped to stores and restaurants in the area — all before they’re 24 hours old.

When he was 14, Wurz said his grandfather put him in charge of the laying hens and told him to feed the hens, clean the barns and sell the eggs. His first two egg customers were restaurants in Morinville. They now sell to 80 restaurants, 20 stores, two farmers’ markets and customers who stop at the colony’s store.

The Morinville Colony is one of the few egg operations with its own grading facility, monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which allows the colony to sell directly to consumers.

Wurz said it takes about two hours per day to wash, grade and pack the 20,000 eggs.