THE BLOG

An Egg Farm Brings Value to a Whole African Community

10/10/2014 12:50 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Eggs are stacked next to the grill Tuesday, June 24, 2014, at Jefferson University Hospital's cafeteria in Philadelphia. Locally grown foods aren’t just for farmers markets anymore. A growing network of companies and organizations is delivering food directly from local farms to institutions like hospitals and schools, eliminating middlemen from farm to fork. They’re increasing profits for smaller farms and bringing consumers healthier foods.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Most Canadians may not think twice about their continual access to fresh, local, high quality eggs. They don't dread walking into the store to find the egg case low or empty. It simply doesn't happen -- due to a system for egg farming, unique to Canada, called supply management.

Despite the name, supply management is really more about "demand management." Expertise is engaged to monitor, forecast and adjust for fluctuating consumer demand over the course of a year. This is essential. Consumer demand fluctuates dramatically over the year: Easter and holidays cause major increases, summer is slow. Yet, chickens lay about an egg a day -- quite oblivious to these societal trends. Not adjusting for this means either shortages and outcry (and massive price increases for consumers) or surpluses and waste (and massive price drops, short-changing farmers).

Similarly, detailed analysis and calculations of egg farmers' actual costs to produce a dozen eggs is undertaken. The farmer receives a consistent, pre-determined amount for each dozen he sells to the next part of the supply chain, with retailers eventually setting the price we see in the store.

The result: daily, year-round access to eggs that are among the best in the world, egg farmers who earn an appropriate return for their work, and an industry that collectively and effectively markets, invests in progress, and gives back to their communities, provinces and Canada.

But imagine an entirely different reality -- where one might be lucky to access a few eggs a year, let alone per day. One where there is no industry, no collective, and no regularity to production, let alone product standards.

While not alone in terms of countries with major challenges, Swaziland is a region where the norm is a stark contrast from the Canadian situation. There, one in three people in Swaziland are undernourished, with more than 200,000 orphans and vulnerable children living in the country. Currently over 1.2 million people in Swaziland depend on subsistence farming, a practice that limits food availability and progress in the region. Further, a recent survey found that 84 per cent of Canadians agree more can be done to help those in the developing world gain reliable access to nutritious and healthy food.

This is why recently, our national organization, Egg Farmers of Canada, of which I am Chairman, seized an opportunity to leverage what we have nurtured in Canada under supply management. Through a very special initiative called Project Canaan, we are sharing our Canadian-grown expertise and our industry's commitment to social responsibility further afield, to help a most vulnerable population in Swaziland.

In the most basic sense, Project Canaan is a farm that is being built up around an orphanage that is currently home to more than 70 children -- most of whom have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. Establishing a self-sufficient farm around the orphanage, that will see the children, the workers and to some extent the local market well-nourished, is the vision of Janine and Ian Maxwell -- two expatriates from Canada.

With business savvy and the sensibility of engaging different experts for aspects of the project, Ian and Janine will achieve much more than a bustling, integrated and productive farm. They will care for, educate and inspire many children and locals along the way -- which is essential if Swazis are to begin to start turning the tide on the current situation of chronic disease, malnutrition and hunger.

For us as egg farmers, we will be on the ground, helping get an entire laying operation established from the ground up. It will mean assessing options for feed, breeds of birds best suited, barn construction, housing decisions and installations and the development of processes and policies that will see this contribution to the farm forward toward long-term sustainability and success.

Our support is being channeled through the International Egg Foundation, which helps to improve nutrition, health and education in developing countries. We know that the value of eggs in this equation is almost immeasurable: protein is a fundamental building block -- necessary for basic functioning and the efficacy of other medical interventions like vaccines, let alone health and well-being.

As egg farmers, we produce one of the most affordable, high-quality protein staples under one of the most sensible and successful systems. In Canada, eggs are ever-available, ubiquitous and increasingly available in a range of choices -- in terms of farming practices or other nutritional options. On World Egg Day, and on behalf of the 1,000 family egg farms in Canada, we invite everyone to take a peek at just how much impact our "humble egg" will have when it becomes more available, or available for the first time, to those who need it most in other parts of the world.