Have you ever wondered where your eggs come from?
The Journey of the Egg is a story that is told all across Canada by more than 1,000 egg farmers and farm families who work hard every single day to ensure fresh, local and high-quality eggs are always available for you to enjoy!
What’s more! This story is told by a Canadian egg farmer who can’t wait to meet you.
Chapter 1: From Farm to Table
From coast to coast, more than 1,000 farm families produce the eggs we find in our stores. And those eggs, come from farms that are committed to some of the highest standards of egg production in the world! Follow the journey of an egg, from farm to table.
Chapter 2: The Pullet Barn
An egg starts off as an egg!
The journey of the egg begins at the hatchery where fertilized eggs from breeding flocks are placed in special incubators. Twenty one days later these eggs hatch into baby chicks. The chicks are then moved to a pullet barn, a special barn for young hens, where they stay for 19 weeks until they mature into hens. These hens are then transferred to the laying barn and begin laying eggs.
Chapter 3: The Laying Barn
Much goes into preparing for a new flock of hens! It’s a busy time for the egg farmer and their staff. The barn is thoroughly cleaned and all the equipment is inspected. The farmers also check their laying barns daily to make sure their hens are healthy and comfortable.
Did you know Canadian eggs are produced according to some of the highest quality standards in the world? Our farmers take part in a comprehensive, national Animal Care Program, and on-farm food safety program called Start Clean-Stay Clean™! These programs set out important protocols and standards which are verified by trained field inspectors.
Canadian egg farmers use a variety of different systems to house their hens. Conventional housing provides hens with small group settings that enable all birds to have equal access to fresh food and water. Furnished or enriched housing is equipped with perches and a curtained off area to give hens privacy when laying their eggs. Free run housing provides hens’ access to the entire barn floor area where hens can perch, scratch, forage and lay their eggs in nesting areas. Free range housing provides hens with access to the outdoors, as weather permits. Each system provides a clean environment, access to fresh food and water, and protection from natural predators.
Since the Canadian climate is so variable, most hens are housed in temperature controlled barns. This allows farmers to keep a consistent temperature in the barn, and protects the hens from inclement weather like rain, snow, heat and humidity.
Chapter 4: What Do Egg Farmers Feed Their Hens?
Whether you take them boiled, poached or over-easy, eggs are a snap to cook. But making sure they are always nutritious? That takes work. That’s why egg farmers work with nutrition specialists to ensure hens receive a balanced diet consisting of grains, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Wheat, corn, barley, rye and oats in the feed provide energy, and are also sources of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Legumes (like soybeans and peas), and oilseeds (like canola and flax), are more concentrated sources of dietary protein and fat.
Some feeds used in Canada contain a small amount of products like dried eggshell, meat and bone meal. These are safe and nutritious sources of energy, protein, calcium and phosphorous. Fats from vegetable or animal sources provide energy, while calcium and phosphorus from various sources help maintain strong bones and support daily eggshell formation.
Regardless of the mix of ingredients, feed for laying hens in Canada is always free of added steroids and hormones. And, antibiotics are not required for egg production. Egg farmers across the country follow feed regulations set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Did you know that the hen’s diet can change the colour of the egg’s yolk? For example, wheat-based diets, which are more common in the western provinces, make pale yellow yolks. While corn-based diets make for a darker coloured yolk. How neat is that!
Chapter 5: Where Do Eggs Come From?
Do you know where brown eggs and white eggs come from? It’s simple: eggs with white shells come from birds with white feathers and eggs with brown shells come from hens with brown feathers.
You may also want to know that eggs aren't just delicious. They're also extremely nutritious, an excellent source of protein and provide a number of essential nutrients. In fact, eggs are one of nature's most nutritious foods. One large egg is only 70 calories and 5 grams of fat, contains 6 grams of high-quality protein, and provides 14 essential nutrients such as vitamins A, D and E, folate, iron, zinc, and choline. This means eating eggs is good for your bones, teeth, skin and eyes!
Chapter 6: The Egg Grading Station
Eggs travel from the farm to the grading station registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Here the eggs are washed, gently scrubbed and dried to clear away dirt and bacteria from the shell.
Egg quality is then examined using a process called “candling” where the egg passes over a bright light, revealing the condition of the shell, the size of the air cell and whether the yolk is well-centered. The eggs are then separated into grades based on predetermined criteria, packaged according to their weight and delivered to the store.
Chapter 7: The Egg Breaking Station
Eggs are washed and candled to verify they meet Canadian standards for liquid and dried egg products at the breaking station. An automated machine, called a “breaker,” breaks the eggshell, and in some cases separates the yolks from the whites.
These eggs are then pasteurized and processed into liquid, frozen or powdered form to be used in restaurants and bakeries, or to make other products such as mayonnaise or shampoo.
Chapter 8: Eggs At Your Local Store
Eggs travel from the grading station to the store in a refrigerated truck. The eggs are kept under refrigeration at the store and are carefully rotated to ensure the eggs that arrive first are the first ones sold.
Standing in front of the egg case today, one might well be in awe of the variety available. We’re fortunate to have such a selection of eggs to choose from in Canada. And to know every choice is a great one!
Let’s consider the variety of eggs you might find:
- Regular white or brown eggs come from hens that are housed in small group settings with plenty of access to food and water.
- Vitamin enhanced eggs have more of a certain nutrient (e.g. vitamin D and Omega-3). Hens are fed a nutritionally-enhanced diet containing higher levels of certain nutrients that make their way from the diet of the hen into the egg.
- Organic eggs come from hens raised in a free range system with access to the outdoors. Hens are fed a certified organic feed.
- Furnished or enriched eggs come from hens that are housed in small group settings with amenities such as perches and a curtained off area where hens lay their eggs.
- Free run eggs come from hens that roam the entire barn floor. Some of these barns may be equipped with multi-tiered aviaries.
- Free range eggs come from hens that roam the barn floor and when weather permits, go outside to pasture. Outdoor access is only seasonally available in Canada.
- Processed eggs are shell eggs broken by special machines and pasteurized. They are further processed and packaged in liquid, frozen or dried form.
The choice is yours!
From classic white and brown eggs to enriched or furnished eggs, free range and free run to organic, Omega-3 and vitamin D enhanced, egg farmers give Canadians all the choices they ask for.
Look to the carton when selecting your preferred variety of eggs. Here you’ll find the Grade A symbol, the size of the egg and the best before date, so you always know you are buying high-quality eggs that are produced according to some of the highest on-farm standards in the world.
The result is that our eggs, no matter which type you prefer, are among the best in the world in terms of quality and freshness. And they taste delicious too!
Chapter 9: In Your Kitchen
You’ve just bought some fresh, local, high-quality Grade A eggs—and, now what?
Make sure to store your eggs in the carton in the body of the fridge. This helps keep your eggs a consistent temperature. And, by keeping them in the original carton, their porous shell will not take on the smell of other foods in your fridge and you will always know the best before date.
Whether you like them boiled, poached or over-easy, eggs are a snap to cook, and there are many delicious and nutritious ways to enjoy them! Browse our recipe collection for some egg-ified inspiration!
Thanks for following along the Journey of the Egg with us and for learning how the egg gets from the farm to your table.
Egg farmers across the country and our partners along the way work hard to ensure that you have fresh, nutritious and high-quality eggs to enjoy—no matter how you crack them!