Canada’s first public facility for egg research, education and training opened its doors in Manitoba on Wednesday.
The Manitoba Egg Farmer Learning and Research Centre was created thanks to a partnership between Manitoba Egg Farmers, the University of Manitoba as well as the federal and provincial governments.
The new facility, located about 28 kilometres south of Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba’s Glenlea Research Station, will promote and strengthen the research being done on modern egg production techniques and technologies, while also showing the public what egg farmers do.
“Manitoba doesn’t have another facility like this where the general public can … come and see these birds,” Kurt Siemens, an egg farmer and Manitoba Egg Farmer director, told CBC News.
The centre features two biosecure barns — one where the birds are free-run and another with “enriched housing,” which gives the birds access to a nesting box and a perch. Both have windows for the public to safely view the laying hens.
Siemens said it’s the first facility that combines public education on egg farming with research. As a third-generation egg farmer, he’s excited by the new centre.
“As I get older, I like helping people understand what we do,” said Siemens. “That’s why we’re so passionate about this facility here, because we can bring the public in and show what we do and show how proud we are of what we produce.”
The new facility brings together different people, perspectives and researchers, said Dr. Jim House, a University of Manitoba professor in the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences.
“You’ve got researchers all the way from engineering, animal science, nutrition programs, data management, artificial intelligence — all of these folks will be able to collaborate on programs, so that will allow us to address and evaluate the entire system that goes into producing eggs,” he told CBC News.
The centre has a private section for University of Manitoba students and researchers, and the two housing systems will enable them to examine the health of the laying hens, according to House.
“Healthy birds lay healthy eggs,” he said.
The ultimate goal of the new centre is to ensure that the data collected is being put to use through the centre’s relationships with Manitoba Egg Farmers and Egg Farmers of Canada, he said.
“You can actually be sitting in your office at the Fort Garry campus, or anywhere in the world, and download the data that is being generated here.”
Research in action
Research at the centre will also examine how changes in the diets of laying hens can influence the nutritional profile of their eggs, according to House.
That data can be used by researchers for human trials to better understand the role of eggs in helping to combat eye and cardiovascular diseases, he said.
Manitoba has approximately 2.6 million laying hens, representing almost 10 per cent of Canada’s market share, according to Manitoba Egg Farmers. That’s about 76 million dozen eggs being produced in Manitoba each year.
“I would just about 100 per cent guarantee that if you’re buying or eating eggs from a Manitoba [store], they are produced here in Manitoba,” said Siemens, adding that there are 170 egg producers in the province.
He’s thrilled that the public will get to see how their eggs are produced.
“We’re really proud of what we have, and to be able to feed our consumers with the perfect humble egg — there’s nothing better than that.”
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