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A look inside the egg industry’s shell

Last month marked the grand opening of the University of Manitoba and Manitoba Egg Farmers Learning and Research Centre, located in the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre just outside Glenlea.

The state-of-the-art, 22,000-square-foot facility, now bringing in hundreds of kids for interactive tours, is an exciting feat for farmers and researchers alike, as it gives visitors a safe, up-close view of how chickens and their eggs are handled before the latter are sent to grocery stores across Manitoba.

The Discovery Centre, located just 15 kilometres south of the city, has other research facilities focused on dairy, swine, beef cattle, manure processing, a feed-mill and 986 acres of field sites, according to the U of M website, but they are mostly inaccessible to the public because of the threat of biohazards.

 

“A lot of the students are coming from agriculture… biosecurity is a problem,” said Jay Bourcier, operations manager at Glenlea Research Station. “If they have chickens on their operation, they can’t just go right into our operation. So now with this facility, we’re able to at least accommodate all of the students.”

The eggs produced at this location are cooled, packaged and sent off for consumption. Although the goal of the facility is education, it still produces a decent amount of food.

The facility produces 900 dozen eggs per pallet and houses hundreds of hens in both free-run and enriched enclosures, but it’s just a small sample of Manitoba’s large egg industry.

The type of enclosure doesn’t affect the quality of an egg, said Claire McCaffery, Manitoba Egg Farmers communications officer.

“Between the aviary (free-run) and the enriched, it’s really just the housing system, how they’re kept, and what the consumer likes to support,” she said.

 

McCaffery said that egg-carton labels in stores can confuse people. “Like, what’s a ‘nest-laid egg?’” she said, gesturing at the rows of nesting spaces behind the window. “Well…”

She said that both of the enclosures at the research have different benefits and are both closely surveyed by those working with them. The enriched enclosure keeps the birds in small groups, to avoid ‘pecking orders.’ The free-run enclosure keeps the hens closer together, but they are able to fly (as best as they can) to higher areas in the enclosure to keep their personal space.

Each system also has “water nipples” and dark, personal areas in which the hens can lay their eggs.

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