Thursday, 19 June 2014

My Visit To Burnbrae Farms: Learning About Eggs From An Industry Leader #BBFFarmTour

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Last week was a super fun week for me!
I had the amazing opportunity to leave Edmonton for a few days to visit Burnbrae Farms in Lyn, Ontario, as a guest of the Hudson Family, the founding owners of Burnbrae Farms. And if you are not familiar with Burnbrae Farms, they are the #1 egg producer in Canada, the industry leader, and supply eggs from coast to coast. Along with 12 other bloggers, I had the honour of meeting all 5 Hudson siblings plus Grandma, while enjoying delicious food, touring barns, learning about egg processing and how eggs go from farm to table.

A few interesting facts I learned:
Burnbrae Farms has been producing eggs since the 1940's when a young Joe Hudson brought home laying hens as part of a school project in 1943. Before that, it had been a mixed farm with cattle.
Burnbrae Farms has been family-owned and family run since the late 1800s. Four of the five children of the boy who brought home the hen project from school are very much involved in the hands-on running of the farm in Lyn, Ontario and it's other locations across Canada. And I met all 5 siblings {four sisters and one "naughty brother"}, shared a meal with them and talked to them about their farm. Their passion for their farm and what they do is evident. And I love how they give back to the community of Lyn by keeping cows and horses on the farm at their own expense just for the children of the local 4-H Club.
Helen Ann Hudson and a beautiful Arabian Horse she rescued.
Canada has some of the strictest egg standards in the world. You can be assured that every egg that arrives on your table has gone through a thorough inspection, cleaning, candling and grading process before the egg ever leaves the farm.
Burnbrae Farms is not only the #1 egg producer in Canada, but the #1 marketer of specialty eggs {including Omega 3, Omega Pro, Organic, Free Fun and Nature's Best} and the #1 leader in liquid eggs in Canada.
Burnbrae Farms believes in social responsibility. They support initiatives and practice ways to reduce energy use and retrofit  inefficient equipment and lighting. They manage manure, waste water, egg shells, reduce and recycle as much as they can. They use recyclable packaging made from recycled materials.
Eggs are the lowest carbon footprint animal protein that you can buy. 
Now let's talk about those hens, shall we?

Let's just say, that like many of you, I have been subjected to the many media stories and images of animals on factory farms not being treated well. This has made me afraid. However, I visited Burnbrae Farms with an open mind and a mission to learn as much as I could and to share it with you so that you could learn too. So I put on these pretty rubber boots and I got to work!
I met the dedicated and passionate Hudson family.....four sisters and one 'naughty' brother, along with their children and one grandma, and I visited the barns and the processing plant. I saw how thousands of hens are cared for and I learned about every single process involved in getting clean and safe eggs from farm to table. I saw long-time employees at work...some who have been with Burnbrae Farms for as long as 30 years. I observed, asked questions, visited many buildings, held and patted farm animals.

Here`s what I learned about hens at Burnbrae Farms. The hens are housed in 3 styles...conventional housing, enriched housing and free run housing. Did you know that hens used to be housed outside, but they were brought in to help protect them from disease, predators and weather? {And for food safety too, so the eggs aren't sitting outside in poo.}

Most hens in Canada are housed in Conventional Housing Systems in conventional cages where all hens have equal access to feed and water. The hens are housed in smalls social groups and research has shown that raising hens in smaller social groups helps to reduce aggression and disease. {Even in nature, there are bullies!} I visited a conventional barn on the tour and saw hens just like these.
The most affordable eggs on the table in Canada come from hens in these housing systems.
The second style of housing used is Enriched Colony Housing Systems where enclosures are designed to provide all hens with the same benefits of conventional housing, but with the added benefits of perches, nestling areas and more space. We visited an enriched barn on the tour to see those hens and how they live.
The third type of housing system I visited was a Free Run Housing System where birds are allowed to move around freely to nestle and roost. {Burnbrae Farms has offered eggs from Free Run and Organically raised layer hens for more than 10 years.} I visited this kind of barn on our tour too and this is what I saw: a big, big barn...with hens all crowded into one little space. Even when given tons of space, the hens chose not to use it. Funny how nature works like that!
Some of the most expensive eggs in Canada come from this housing system.
At the end of the day, here's what I came away with...I saw hens well-cared for and healthy.
 I didn't see one single unhappy hen anywhere. 
I saw a family-run business that is dedicated to the humane treatment, health and safety of  hens. 
And I know that we enjoy affordable eggs in Canada, made possibly by conventional housing.
Although the idea of us all eating organic food sounds wonderful in theory, our planet could not actually handle it. The amount of resources we would need to produce all organic food would require more harm to our planet than good.
So industries, like our egg industry, is producing eggs in the most economically efficient way to make eggs affordable for Canadians to buy, and in the most globally responsible way.
I can honestly say that after this day long tour, I came away feeling very proud of Burnbrae Farms, and our egg industry. All of the industry partners are working together to bring affordable nutrition, in the    form of eggs, to the table under the best management practices available today, all while balancing social responsibilities to local, regional and global communities.

                                         Here's our group...after a very fun and educational day!
I would to thank the Hudson Family for opening their doors and inviting us, especially:

Sue Hudson, who organized our tour and is the marketing guru of Burnbrae Farms, who was with us the whole day and answered our many questions and fed us lovely snacks on the bus.
Margaret Hudson, the president of Burnbrae Farms, who joined us and passionately educated us about the science and social responsibility of doing business in the egg industry.
Helen Ann Hudson. who lives by the farms and takes care of and loves the many farm animals kept for the 4-H Club, and welcomed our group into her home for dinner.
Ted Hudson, the 'naughty brother', Mary Jean Hudson, Grandma Joan & other family members for their warmth and hospitality.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Burnbrae Farms Blogger Farm Tour program as a guest of Burnbrae Farms. All opinions are 100% my own.

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