Sask. egg producers tell stories through videos

Inside agriculture | Producer group hopes to engage customers with series of YouTube videos

Saskatchewan egg producers want consumers to know more about how they operate.

Several of the province’s 67 registered producers have participated in videos that take viewers inside barns and grading facilities.

Shawn Harman, a third generation producer at Section 7 Farms near Humboldt, said not many people have the chance to see inside a barn because of biosecurity measures.

“I think people just don’t have exposure to egg production, so they think animals maybe are mistreated in our environments,” he said.

“We make sure we take very good care. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to do the video was to get that message out.”

Audrey Price, executive director of Saskatchewan Egg Producers, said consumers need to understand production, food safety and housing.

She said they want local, fresh, safe and nutritious food.

“They also want to know that it’s humanely raised, that the environment is respected, that we’re good stewards of our animals and that the animals are not mistreated in the raising of this food,” she said.

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The videos depict conventional cage systems and cage-free systems.

They were in the works for about a year, long before the current A&W campaign that promotes eggs from chickens fed a vegetarian diet.

Price said chickens are omnivores and will eat anything they can find, but supplemented diets ensure they receive the proper nutrients to produce strong eggshells while maintaining their own health.

Harman said Section 7, which produces eggs from 140,000 hens at facilities near Humboldt, Prince Albert and Steinbach, Man., offers eggs from several types of diets and production systems, including vegetarian.

Gold Egg Grain Fed eggs are available at grocery stores, which he said are a good option for people who don’t want to eat animal byproducts in their eggs.

For example, rations can contain oyster shells to promote good quality eggshells, while added vitamin D helps birds metabolize calcium. Harman said alternative sources for some vitamins have to be found to replace animal sources.

“Nutritionally, I don’t think there’s much difference,” he said of the end product.

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Harman also said proper barn ventilation is critical to bird health.

“We’re pumping fresh air into the barn,” he said.

“We have monitors in the barn to measure the air quality. We take that very seriously.”

Price said producers have a positive story to tell, which is why these first videos will be followed by more. They were funded through Growing Forward 2 and can be found on the SEP website and YouTube channel.

The organization launched the videos last week as producers began a two-day workshop to learn about new animal care standards.

Of the 67 producers who belong to Saskatchewan Egg Producers, 55 are Hutterite colonies. Price said flocks can range from as few as 3,000 birds to tens of thousands.

“Size doesn’t mean that it’s not either a family farm or that the birds aren’t dealt with humanely or well cared for,” she said.

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“People think that quantity equates to big business farming. They’re still local family farms in their communities.”