It’s no longer about which came first, the chicken or the egg; it’s about the dramatic cost increases to produce them.
There are several reasons for the increased costs behind egg production.
Mike Schroeder and his wife, Sarah, operate Lakeland Farms, an organic egg operation in Silver Creek that is home to 4,500 hens.
The couple have been producing assorted certified organic grains and forages for food and animal feed and certified organic table eggs on 350 acres, said Mike.
Raised in a multi-generational farm in the Lower Mainland, Mike said the chickens came next, followed by a small feed mill.
In the last 12 months, starting with the drought of 2021, the costs to producers have risen dramatically. Labour has gone up five to 10 per cent, while insurance has gone up by 100 per cent, especially for the processors.
“We have faced this escalation in all our costs, along with rapidly climbing interest rates for lines of credit, mortgages, etc,” he said.
As an organic producer, the price paid to the Schroeders as set by the BC Egg Marketing Agency has gone up by eight per cent.
“We are part of a supply chain, so there are several steps in the chain from processor, transporter and retailer before it reaches the consumer, and we don’t have control of what happens to the price after it leaves us,” he said. “But the supply management system (quota system) in Canada has kept us reasonably healthy.”
But transportation costs were continually increasing, with some feed ingredients going right past the farm on their way to the Lower Mainland and coming back after processing. In response, the Schroeders built a commercial on-farm feed mill and began production of bulk organic poultry feeds under the brand Lakeland Feeds Inc. a couple of years ago.
“It really saved our bacon last year when the floods knocked out the roads,” he said of last years devastating floods that destroyed roads between the Lower Mainland and the Interior. “We were able to supply most of the organic layer producers and most of the organic meat chicken in the Interior.”
Another issue of concern is avian influenza, which is preventing the Schroeders from allowing their chickens to get the eight months of outdoor access they usually get. He said the disease is holding on in a few places, with cases in Alberta, Quebec and in the Southern States. He is concerned about the big risk wild bird carriers of avian flu pose as they fly south this fall.
“In my opinion, our food system is changing really rapidly and the days of low energy, easy transport and a responsive supply chain are over,” said Mike.
“I think it is in consumers best interest that our local farms are healthy and I think they need to be conscious that every time they go to a grocery store they are voting for what they want their food system to look like.”
Schroeder calls for the development of creative and innovative ways of managing future food systems.
Brad DeMille of De Mille’s Farm Market, gets his feed from Surecrop in Enderby and said his costs to raise chickens has increased by about 30 per cent.
“All the feed has to be hauled in by train or truck from the Prairies, and we just don’t have enough feed on hand to supply all local farmers,” he said. “Generic feed that used to cost $11 has risen to $20.”
Like Schroeder, De Mille calls for a restructuring of the food management system along with provincial investment to assist local farmers. He suggests considering greenhouses similar to ones in Medicine Hat, which are built eight feet into the ground and enjoy geothermal heating.
“Fifty per cent of your food is grown in California,” he said, warning that when the state’s water woes worsen, Canadian consumers will be cut off. “Money that goes to California never comes back. We need to grow locally and efficiently, or pay a lot more.”
Chelsea Keenan of Keenan Family Farms said feed for their chickens has gone up by 26 per cent in the last two years. They have raised the price of a dozen eggs from $6 to $7, but in order to cover the increased cost of feed, they would have to charge $7.56 a dozen.
“We try and save money in other areas like in our personal life, really,” Keenan said, pointing out they want to make their eggs and meat products readily available. “We are already priced above grocery stores, but it’s premium. “We don’t want to price ourselves out of the market.”
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