The BC Egg Marketing Board says graders and suppliers are not obligated to tell consumers where their eggs are being produced.
In a Citizen story published last week titled “Name on the egg carton not what it seems, cautions Cowichan producer,” Farmer Ben’s Eggs owner Jen Woike said consumers may not understand that their eggs from rival Island Gold may not be from the Island.
“B.C. does not produce enough eggs to meet our needs so graders may be required to bring eggs to B.C. from other parts of Canada in order to fill the market,” said Katie Lowe,the executive director of the BC Egg Marketing Board. “Whether or not a grader chooses to disclose the specific farm the eggs came from is up to them and not something that is currently required.”
Woike said that of the eggs in Vancouver Island chain grocery stores are from Burnbrae Farms and its suppliers. President and CEO Margaret Hudson said Burnbrae Farms, which produces Island Gold eggs, is proud to be associated with the Jensen family of Westholme in the Cowichan Valley, who began selling eggs in British Columbia in the early 1950s.
“We purchased Island Eggs from the family in 2007, and a member of the Jensen family still serves as office manager. Today we employ 50 Islanders and pick up eggs from 32 egg farms on the Island and the Lower Mainland to help meet the growing demand for B.C. eggs,” Hudson said. “We will continue to do everything we can to supply Island-raised eggs to those who prefer them.”
Hudson noted that 20 per cent of the B.C. egg market is made up of Burnbrae eggs and their “fulfillment rate to our grocery store customers on the Island is over 98 per cent”.
How those eggs are labelled is not in the purview of the BC Egg Marketing Board.
“B.C. Egg has no mandate to interfere in the relationship between the grader and retail outlet,” Lowe said. “We audit farmers to ensure all regulations are being met. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the organization in charge of labelling requirements in Canada.”
A call to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was not immediately returned.
Burnbrae Farms opted not to comment on Woike’s claim smaller producers are being kept off of the big chain supermarket shelves due to contracts signed back east that prohibit competition.
Hudson did note though that the COVID-19 pandemic has put all producers in a tough spot.
“When the pandemic quarantine started, we saw a sharp increase in demand for eggs at retail because we were all at home, cooking and baking more. Burnbrae Farms and Island Eggs produce more than a dozen different types of shell eggs, from free-range to veggie fed to organic, to meet the needs and expectations of all consumers and to provide a complete selection for our grocery retail customers,” she said.
“The unexpected increase in demand meant we ran short of some types of eggs at various times in some parts of the country. Our team worked diligently to re-balance the egg supply, which also included redirecting eggs that were destined for food service to retail channels. To ensure Canadians have the eggs they need every day, we move eggs from provinces that have an oversupply to those that have unmet demand.
“British Columbia does not produce enough eggs annually to meet its ever-rising consumer demand, nor does Vancouver Island have sufficient egg production to meet the needs of those living on the Island. This was true even before the pandemic.”