Feb. 8, 2024

Why Do Specialty Eggs Like Cage-Free Cost More?

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

When my father Joe Hudson first started to produce eggs more than 80 years ago, Burnbrae Farms offered one type of egg. Today, we’re proud to offer 15 varieties of eggs that are produced in different ways to meet consumers’ desires. One difference is the variety of housing the hens are raised in , including enriched colony, free run (also referred to as cage-free), free range (with outdoor access) and conventional housing ( which is being phased out ).

At Burnbrae, we take pride in providing choice to egg lovers based on their values and preferences. Choice is important to us.

You’ve likely noticed while perusing egg choices in the grocery store, that specialty eggs like free range, and free run have higher price tags. There are several reasons, and many boil down to how hens are housed.

First, young hens (called pullets) are raised in free run pullet barns, which involve higher feed costs, and additional labour and building costs. There is a lot of additional furniture in a free run pullet barn to train the young chickens on how to navigate the barn to find their food, water and nests. The hens are then moved to either free run (cage-free) or free-range layer barns.

These types of eggs typically are laid by brown hens, which are larger so there are fewer in the barns. Brown hens also tend to lay fewer eggs than white hens.

In addition, free run hens are more active and therefore eat more feed. In general, brown hens eat 15 to 20 percent more than white hens, and feed is the primary cost associated with producing eggs.

When it comes to labour, one person can care for an enriched colony barn, where the hens are housed in smaller social groups of 16 to 60 so they are easier to monitor. Free-run and free-range housing require two maybe three people daily, as the birds freely roam in large barns (and outdoors for free range) and need more care to ensure their wellbeing.

Also, the cost of building free run and free-range housing is more expensive than either enriched colony or conventional barns ( which is being phased out ).

There are many factors at play. But, regardless of the variety or price of egg or the type of housing, all hens at Burnbrae Farms receive the highest standards of care. It’s our ethical obligation.

It is important to us at Burnbrae Farms to provide Canadian consumers with choice in the type of eggs they purchase and that eggs are available to families of all incomes. Many families depend on eggs as a convenient, healthy and affordable source of protein and nutrients That’s especially true today with inflation putting a strain on many. Supplying eggs from housing types like enriched colony, which  provides for exceptional hen care and produces more affordable eggs, is also an ethical obligation as our family seeks to make sure everyone has access.