B.C. egg and chicken producers are doing their best to manage the numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.(File photo)

B.C. egg, chicken farms facing down challenge of COVID-19

Plenty of product available to feed the province, but groups urge consumers to only buy what’s needed

Like everyone else in the province and the globe, B.C. egg and chicken producers are dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both egg and chicken farms are trying their best to reduce the number of visitors to local operations, and ensure that all labourers follow proper distancing and hygiene practices.

But, for the most part it’s business as usual for both industries.

“Farmers are used to staying home because work and home are the same place,” stated BC Egg executive director Katie Lowe. “Our farmers will be working hard to ensure their hens are healthy and continue to send nutritious eggs to the grading stations.”

Lowe said minimizing visitors to egg farms and limiting the time they interact has also been key to ensure saftey standards during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Obviously, some people need to go a farm – drivers of egg and feed trucks, auditors, and so on,” she said. “Most farmers know their regular delivery and pick-up drivers and feel comfortable letting them go about their business without supervision. BC Egg has limited the number of farmers our auditors come in contact with in a day to protect everyone’s health. Important inspections and tests are still being done; however, the auditors are keeping meetings with farmers to a minimum.”

She added that B.C. is not in danger of an egg shortage anytime soon, but urged consumers to only buy what they need to allow everyone the opportunity to take their product home.

“People are buying more eggs than they usually do so, the stores are running out of eggs faster than normal,” she said. “There is no shortage of eggs in B.C. as the hens continue to lay and farmers are working hard to get the eggs to the grading stations and then on to the stores. We ask people to follow the advice of the government and to not stockpile food. Eggs are perishable and won’t last forever. Buy what you need and leave the rest for your neighbours.”

It’s a similar story for the B.C. chicken industry, with the B.C. Chicken Marketing Board’s executive director Bill Vanderspek telling Black Press Media that the demand has been high, although the industry has been able to keep up.

“The B.C. chicken supply chain remains intact and there is plenty of chicken to supply the local market. Stores across B.C. are stocked daily with fresh local chicken,” he said. “We have noticed that chicken and other products are disappearing quickly from store shelves. British Columbians are cooking at home so there is more chicken being sold at retail. Our processors are making adjustments to transfer chicken from restaurant/food service to retail channels to meet the shift in demand.”

Vanderspek added that increased quarantines could impact the available labour for local farms, and said his group will continue to adjust in these challenging times.

“Chicken farms in B.C. are multi-generational family farms,” he said. “Like all B.C. families, health and safety is our primary concern. Producers are concerned for the welfare of their flocks, especially if there are increased quarantines which could impact the supply of labor.”

Both Vanderspek and Lowe said closing the U.S. border could create issues, but Lowe said B.C. eggs are not exported south of the border. However, many farmers in both industries rely on America for agricultural supplies, which could prove to be an issue depending on how long those supplies are unavailable.

Vanderspek said he remains confident that local chicken farmers can continue doing their job in a way that benefits all B.C. residents.

“The BC Chicken Marketing Board has a 60-year history of meeting the demand for chicken while adapting to changes quickly and efficiently,” he said. “Our system of supply management keeps our food supply local and carefully managed. The continued flow of goods between Canada and the United States is important to us, as it is to most industries in B.C. We are working collaboratively with the other local and national agencies to ensure that the Canadian production system is maintained to the same level of excellence as consumers are expecting.”

RELATED: Chicken city: Poultry outnumber humans in Abbotsford 70-to-one

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