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A market driven by real, local farm families: The Egg Farmers of Ontario

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We Canadians love our eggs. Leaders in the Canadian foodservice sector know this and have leveraged that love by serving eggs on their menus all day long as well as assuring consumers they are using 100 per cent Canadian eggs. Egg consumption has grown at an average rate of more than three per cent annually for more than a decade and increased by about five per cent in 2018 alone.

Canadian eggs are fresh and high-quality, and every member of the egg supply chain works hard to maintain that trust. This is a trust based on consistent customer satisfaction. Driving this trust are sophisticated quality control systems and a near army of professional farmers, veterinarians, inspectors, auditors, graders, processors and wholesalers that form an integrated supply chain that works endlessly to ensure Canadians have a constant supply of fresh, high-quality, local eggs.

This trust exists in the 2019 Canadian reality where only about one per cent of the population is involved in farming, but people want to know more about where their food comes than ever before. This means that egg farmers need to actively tell their stories to consumers and continue to build relationships and partnerships with food and beverage professionals and the entire supply chain from farm to consumer.

Who are we ?

Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) is an independent, self-governing farming organization and, together with similar egg marketing groups in every province, works to operate a national system that efficiently manages the Canadian egg supply. It is not part of the government nor is it financed by taxes. It is funded entirely by egg farmers. Each farmer pays a fee on every dozen eggs sold, and these funds are used to support the activities of the Ontario and Canadian egg system.

Egg Farmers of Ontario is a supply management and fair farm pricing organization. That means it estimates how many eggs will be needed annually and sets production levels so the right amount will be produced. Many developed countries take a different approach, over-supplying their markets of this critical dietary staple and using subsidies to dispose of surpluses.

This farm organization markets all of the eggs for the nearly 500 Ontario egg farmers and pullet growers (pullets are young hens being raised to egg-laying age) that produce about 270 million dozen eggs annually—about 40 per cent of total Canadian egg production.

The Canadian approach is to have prices paid to the egg farmer based on what it costs to produce the egg. The mandate is to provide consumers with a guaranteed supply of safe, high-quality eggs at the most reasonable prices possible. This is accomplished through the efficient management of the production of eggs, research, product promotion, and ongoing marketing activities.

Efficient production of safe, high-quality eggs is a result of a number of programs and practices developed after years of research and constant improvement. These include an approved Code of Practice for Laying Operations (covering cage size, lighting, ventilation, water and feed, waste removal and pest control), mandatory bacteria testing of the layer operations, a standardized safety and quality program and regular on-farm inspections to monitor quality and safety standards plus third-party audits of those programs.

On the demand side of the equation, Egg Farmers of Ontario works to promote eggs as rich in protein and a natural choice for an active lifestyle. The goal is to take this message directly to consumers via recipe brochures, nutrition booklets, and sampling and cooking demonstrations at shows and fairs. Eggs are also promoted through advertising, social media, school visits and literature and work with restaurant and foodservice partners.

Egg farmers are also very active in supporting communities across Ontario including a province-wide egg donation program for food banks and strong contributions to student nutrition programs.

Consumer research nearly a decade ago told Egg Farmers of Ontario clearly that they needed to do a better job of showing consumers the real local egg farm families that supply the eggs in Ontario. In response, the Who Made Your Eggs Today? campaign was created to showcase egg farm families from across Ontario and share their personal stories. The campaign has continued to evolve in an effort to reassure people about their egg purchases and answer consumer questions about eggs and egg farming.

Supporting foodservice

Eggs continue to “Get Cracking” in today’s foodservice environment, beyond their traditional menu places. Egg Farmers of Ontario has a pair of experienced foodservice marketing/sales professionals providing assistance to the sector to help operators seize the opportunities that eggs can provide in the fast-paced, out-of-home marketplace.

The Ontario team is headed by Nancy Hewitt, an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in foodservice, working closely with Debbie Fantauzzi, another seasoned foodservice consultant, providing no-cost marketing support for foodservice operators that want to promote eggs on their menus.

 The pair work to help operators leverage the versatility and low-cost attributes of the egg, which is now appearing centre-of-the-plate as a protein or topping a salad. Eggs are a back-of-the-house ingredient that has multiple applications.

“The pace at which food trends evolve has forced operators to constantly rediscover and explore new menu options—regularly,” Nancy Hewitt says. “Now you’re not only keeping up with the competition, you’re also competing with the proliferation of take-out food alternatives such as grocery retail meals-to-go or the multiple home delivery options now available to your customer.” For these very reasons, it is important that EFO continues to introduce to operators innovative menu ideas using eggs. A perfect eggs-ample was our recent launch of the EggPop at RC Show 2019.  Not only Instagram-worthy but a low-cost menu idea that many operators commented could be on a children’s menu, an appetizer, catering option or presented on a brunch buffet!

Our team will continue to focus on foodservice operator and chain partnerships and menu ideation with Chef Tom Januszewski (The Egg Man), all of which can be further enhanced by our online resources available on Egg Chef.

To further support the operator in Ontario we provide access to professional marketing collateral. During 2018, more than 125 promotions were created using Egg Chef, EFO’s online platform that offers free and customizable point-of-sale materials for restaurant and foodservice operators.

Meet a real egg farm family

Ontario’s egg farm families are a real mix of recent entrants attracted by very strong market growth as well as many farm families who have been in egg farming for generations. One of that latter group is Elmwood farms, owned by Chris and Laura Mullet Koop; it has been in operation since 1932.

The farm located in the Niagara region includes the husband and wife team and their three children. “Beginning as a mixed farm with 700 free-range hens, it has grown to include a 57-acre vineyard in addition to the 11,200 pullet and 9,000 laying hens on the farm.” Chris continues, “Today we are still living in my great-great-grandparents original farmhouse. With new grape varieties, pullet rearing and hen management practices being constantly improved, technologies and efficiencies introduced, we are continuing our long family tradition and take pride in providing Ontario families with healthy, safe, nutritious eggs.”

Chris says his family sees both challenges and opportunities ahead. Telling our story is one of the easiest things that farmers can do, says Chris, but it is also our greatest challenge. “Bridging the gap between our rural and expanding urban populations now requires the use of social media and marketing to communicate beyond our local communities,“ he says.

Despite the challenges of modern farming life, the Mullet Koops look forward to continuing to produce healthy eggs for Ontario consumers. “Our favourite part of being an egg farm family is raising our family in the context of caring for the land and our hens,” says Chris. “And providing safe, healthy food for Ontario.”

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