July 30, 2021

Egg Farming and the Environment

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

Being part of the agricultural industry means I’m always learning something new. From farming technology to environmental practices to innovative food ideas, I like to stay on top of the industry’s news.

One important area of interest for Burnbrae Farms is environmental sustainability, which affects everything from our farming practices to how we package our products. Over the years, we’ve been on the cutting edge with innovative projects such as our free-range solar powered egg farm in Woodstock, Ontario, as well as company-wide lighting retrofits to reduce green house gas emissions.

But that brings me to an important topic for discussion: greenhouse gases (GHG) and the agricultural industry. With the recent push towards plant-based eating for ‘environmental’ reasons, many people are led to believe that raising animals for food is a leading contributor to GHG emissions. The reality may surprise you.

It turns out the entire Canadian agricultural industry accounts for about 10 percent of GHG emissions . Surprised? By the way special interest groups and documentary filmmakers portray it, you’d think it would be much higher. The majority of GHG emissions actually come from transportation, electricity generation and industry processes (outside of agriculture).

Of course, that 10 percent is still important, and Burnbrae Farms is very careful about working towards reducing our carbon footprint. We know that the accumulation of GHG emissions contributes to rising temperatures (global warming), so we do our part to reduce GHG emissions where possible.

The good news? Overall egg production is quite environmentally friendly. It requires less water and less land area to produce compared to other edible proteins. But even beef has been unnecessarily vilified . Some researchers believe that the GHG impact of livestock has been massively overstated, while the use of fossil fuels for transportation has largely been played down, even though it is undoubtedly one of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions. If this whole area of sustainable agriculture interest you, be sure to watch the Canadian documentary Guardians of the Grasslands , which details the role that cattle play in preserving our ecosystem.

In Canada, the average person eats 253 eggs per year, so it’s vital that we are producing eggs in the most sustainable way possible. According to one industry report, egg production increased by 50 percent between 1962 and 2012, while the industry also managed to achieve 50 percent reduction of its environmental footprint during this same time frame. Canadian egg farmers now produce 68 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, use 81 percent less land, 41 percent less energy and 69 percent less water versus 50 years ago according to the Egg Farmers of Canada.

These impressive numbers have been made possible through research, innovation and determined egg producers who have made strides in everything from housing advancements to new farm technologies, such as our own solar-powered farm.

Burnbrae Farms does more than build solar-powered farms to try to reduce our carbon footprint. We manage our hen manure in a way that minimizes gas emissions by keeping it dry and selling it to farmers when they need it for fertilizer. We have done lighting retrofits implementing low energy LED lights in all of our plants and hen barns. We are planting and maintaining wild spaces on our farms wherever possible to help mitigate against climate change impacts. Burnbrae Farms has also diverted all of the by-products of our further processing, such as eggshells, from landfill to reduce our greenhouse gases.

It’s also important to consider the nutritional value of eggs and their low cost in partnership with their low environmental footprint. What do I mean? If you compare the protein in eggs with other foods, you’ll see that:

- Egg protein is the highest quality protein, containing all essential amino acids and is highly digestible.

- Per gram of protein, eggs provide great value at less than one third of the cost of chicken and other meat protein, and about half the cost of soy protein.

- It takes less water to produce more from eggs compared to milk and meat.

- The water footprint per gram of protein produced from food is about the same for eggs, vegetables, grains and beans, which is less than other animal proteins.

- The carbon footprint for eggs is comparable to nuts and other plant foods.

So, you can feel good about enjoying eggs as an environmentally friendly choice with great nutritional value. And here at Burnbrae Farms, we will continue to stay on the cutting edge of research, innovation, and technology to keep HGH emissions low and nutrition a top priority.

Margaret Hudson

President & CEO, Burnbrae Farms