What does a farmer do all day to ensure we can enjoy our favourite foods, like Canadian eggs, at the breakfast table? In partnership with Egg Farmers of Canada, we uncovered some of the nuances of a job that's critical to satiating Canadian appetites — and one that's surprisingly relatable to boot!
For an egg farmer, daily life is about getting up at the crack of dawn, no pun intended. And the average day starts just like yours — with a strong shot of caffeine, and a slew of unread emails.
"Typically I'm up about 5:30 in the morning," says Roger Pelissero, a third-generation egg farmer based in Ontario and Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada. "Have a coffee, check emails, put on my outdoor clothing and shoes, and then head over to the barn to check on the hens. I start with a walkthrough to make sure the barn is secure, the temperature levels are correct and everything looks good at a glance."
"If you think that's early, well my father would wake up even earlier," he adds with a laugh. "He'd joke that if I got up earlier I'd have a lot more done before lunch."
Things are different now compared to how it used to be. Whereas Roger's father would get up and have to manually inspect the water meter, temperature and pressure gauges, modern advancements mean things are much more efficient.
This includes doing an egg count — typically about 17,000 eggs are produced a day on Roger's farm — and monitoring water and feed intake levels.
"Because of technology, I can go online with my smartphone or tablet, and check the temperature of the barn, and how much water and feed the hens have had. That wasn't a possibility in my father's day," says Roger. "This generation has the ability to be away from the farm and still have a sense of what's happening."
While technology has meant systems can be run more efficiently, he notes that today's farmers still must be ready for anything. Temperature and ventilation systems are built with that in mind, including backup systems in case anything happens. In between checking egg belts, replacing light bulbs and checking air flows, there's never a dull moment.
"Nothing is 100 per cent foolproof and our hens are always the top priority," he says. The hens are housed in well-ventilated areas with perches, nesting areas and easy access to water and food. It's all about the flock.
"The health and wellbeing of our hens are crucial, so we always sanitize our hands and clothes each time we enter the barn. You want to make sure they're always comfortable and the temperature is right for them," he says.
After a busy morning, lunch is typically about 30 minutes. Roger usually has eggs for lunch — he notes with a chuckle — and then it's back to work.
"We're always working in and outside the barn. In the summertime, it could be maintaining the grass, checking feeders, and cleaning and sweeping inside and out. In winter, it's about clearing the snow and ensuring that the temperature inside the barn is kept constant."
The workday ends around 5:30 pm; then it's time for family and local meetups with other farmers in the area. There's a real sense of community, which is great, says Roger.
"What excites me about being a egg farmer right now is to see the younger generation come back to the farm. Our industry is stable and strong because of Canada's system of supply management. It delivers the fresh, local eggs that consumers want and enjoy, and farmers get a fair return. The fact that the younger generation has been eager to work in farming is a perfect example of that."
Make no mistake, it's a lot of hard work being an egg farmer. But overall, it's an egg-citing time to be one, he says, pun intended.
Learn more about how Egg Farmers of Canada is strengthening communities through product donations, jobs and stability here.