All About Burnbrae Farms
When it comes to choosing eggs, consumers today have a plethora of options to suit their budgets, values, and nutritional preferences. Top of mind for many consumers is the welfare of the hens and environmental sustainability. One company that has been at the forefront of providing these options while still prioritizing sustainability and animal welfare is Burnbrae Farms. As one of Canada’s largest egg producers, Burnbrae Farms has a rich history spanning six generations. To say they know a little about sustainable egg farming would be a gross understatement.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit one of Burnbrae’s farms and get a first-hand look at the four different housing systems used to raise hens. I also learned some surprising facts about hens and why they prefer and even thrive in certain living conditions.
Did you know…
- Hens are sub-tropical birds and don’t respond well to cold, snow, wind or frost.
- Hens are at greater risk for injury and disease from each other, predators or environmental factors when outdoors.
- Given the option most hens prefer to stay indoors. Only a small percentage venture out when given the option.
- Hens prefer a private, dark nest to lay their eggs in.
There are four main types of housing systems and each has its own set of benefits and trade-offs. Surprisingly, these don’t always match up to what consumers’ perceptions might be – so let’s dive in.
It’s important to know that all housing systems provide the hens with continuous access to food, water and fresh air.
- The move to bring hens indoors, from the range, into a conventional system was to keep them healthier and safer.
- While outdoors, hens on the range were exposed to more disease, predation and harsh weather conditions. So, bringing them indoors made sense from that perspective.
- Keeping the hens in smaller groups, in cages, decreased the amount of aggression among the birds and made them easier to manage.
- Hens in conventional housing always have access to food, water and fresh air.
- This type of housing system produces the lowest carbon footprint of all systems and the most affordable eggs.
- Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow the hens to move around a lot or exhibit natural behaviours like, laying eggs in a darkened nest, perch, dust bath etc…
A notable development at Burnbrae Farms’ is their commitment to moving away from conventional housing systems by 2036. Instead, they are transitioning these systems to enriched aviary-style housing. This shift reflects Burnbrae Farms’ dedication to improving the lives of their hens.
- Enriched housing represents a step towards conditions where hens can exhibit more natural behaviours. It includes larger cages than conventional housing with amenities such as perches, nest boxes, and scratching areas.
- There is less aggression in enriched housing than seen in a free run or free-range systems.
Provides a lower carbon footprint in comparison to free run or free range.
- An improvement over conventional cages has spurred farmers to embrace this method.
- In free-run systems, hens are not in cages and have more space to move around freely between levels in the system.
- Free run housing allows hens to exhibit their natural behaviour, like taking short flights and dust bathing.
- Dust bathing can decrease air quality in the barn in increase mortality rates in hens.
- Larger groups of hens can lead to more aggressive behaviours among the hens.
- This system has a higher carbon footprint than conventional or enriched.
- Free-range systems provide hens with outdoor access, allowing them to exhibit natural behaviors such as dust-bathing and foraging.
- Access to food and water can be more challenging to monitor in this system.
- Requires much more resources to ensure the safer and well-being of the hens.
- Susceptible to predators and other diseases from outdoor exposure.
- Highest carbon footprint of all four systems.
It’s interesting to note that the nutritional value of eggs is not impacted by the system in which the hen is raised. Nutritional value is only impacted by what the hens eat.
Beyond their commitment to animal welfare, Burnbrae Farms prioritize responsible resource management and sustainability. Their commitment extends to energy conservation, waste reduction, investing in renewable energy sources like solar energy, further contributing to their eco-friendly approach to egg production.
This post is sponsored by Burnbrae Farms.