By Ian Cumming
DALHOUSIE, QUE. — Just a kilometre or two east of the Glengarry County border, and about a 10-minute drive north of Hwy 401, down a Quebec gravel road, a massive cage-free egg barn complex is being constructed.
The location of the barns, built by one of Canada’s largest egg processors, Burnbrae Farms, is not only based on the proximity to the freeway corridor linking the Montreal and Toronto markets, but is also based on a far cheaper Hydro rate in Quebec.
Hydro prices are driving big decisions. Based on a November 2016 hydro bill, using 570,000 kw per month in a Montreal cable manufacturing factory, the monthly bill was $36,029. Ontario hydro experts were asked to calculate the exact same industrial power usage here. The monthly bill under Hydro One billing rocketed to $71,022.
MPP Randy Hillier (PC-Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington) posted online the provincial differences between similar houses using 1,000 kwH per month. In Quebec, the monthly bill would be $89.02. In Ontario, using the same power, the bill would be more than twice as much at $239.30.
While this explains the location of the barn complex, the fact that it’s cage-free also reflects the buying power of McDonald’s, Burger King and other retailers, stating that they will only buy cage-free eggs by a specific date.
Hence the market adjusted, not due to government legislation, nor even an updated code of practice. But to consumers arguing that hens are not better “protected” in cages than running free with each other. It also resonates with parents as a school board dictates that children cannot run free on a playground.
They would certainly be safer individually ensconced in bubble wrap.
The time for making excuses for hens in cages, apparently, is over. The market is here to have eggs laid cage-free. And located where hydro costs are lowest.