It’s an idea whose time has come, Jen Woke of Farmer Ben’s Eggs said.
She’s excited about a new concept: taking eggs online.
What this involves is stamping eggs to help provide information for buyers about the kind of farm folks who produce them and how they do it.
“It’s pretty exciting stuff. What we’ve been doing is we’ve had the ability to stamp eggs and have been stamping them for about a year now, and we’ve been using our stamping procedure to say Cowichan Grown or Merry Christmas or whatever we feel creative in doing.
“We’ve now taken it a step further. It’s going to roll out in the next six to eight weeks. And what will happen is, on the egg there will be a code. It’s actually our farm number by which we’re registered through the BC Egg Marketing Board. Our farm number is 2319. So on the egg it will say 2319.”
That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though.
“We’ve redesigned our carton as well; so on our carton we’ve changed from the traditional egg cartons that have the holes in the top that you can see the eggs through to a solid top. What that does is gives us a little more space to talk about ourselves and to give the consumer more information on the inside flap of that carton.”
On the inside flap consumers can learn “who provides our feed for us, along with a direct link to our feed company,” she said.
“We also have who provides our chicks for us and a direct link to the hatchery. And also with that there’s going to be a picture of a little egg with a computer, and that egg is going to have the number 2319. It’s going to say www.bc.eggs.com. What will happen is you’re going to take the code from that egg and go to the BC Egg Marketing Board website and right on the front page it’s going to say: Meet Your Farmer. You’re going to type in your code, 2319, and then it’s going to pop up with everything you ever wanted to know about Farmer Ben’s Eggs.”
The egg industry is keeping up with the times.
“It’s kind of a traceability thing. Consumers want to know where their food comes from, who is growing their food, and how it’s being grown. We’ve taken it that step further; we’re giving them all the information. It goes along with being transparent in today’s industry. It will all be available to them with the click of a button.
“It’s very cool and we’re very excited to roll it out. We’re the first farm, the grading station in B.C. to roll this out.”
Cowichan Green Community administrator Madelaine Macleod said this week she is very happy to hear of this innovation from Farmer Ben’s.
She’s encountered similar efforts at transparency before.
“When I had my own chickens — I had seven of them — every time I bought feed, they wanted my name and number so that if there was ever an issue with that bag of feed, they, Buckerfields, Top Shelf, Shar-Kare or whatever, could track it back to me and let me know. And now, you can also trace right back to the egg. That’s very cool,” she said.
Quebec and Ontario have already mandated that producers offer customers the ability to find out where their eggs come from. Stamping their ID right onto the eggs takes that one step further, said Woike.
“Sometimes people throw away their egg carton which would give them that link to that traceability piece. Now there’ll be another way to trace back, directly on the egg itself.”
It’s completely food safe ink, too.
“Lots of people ask about that. There isn’t much colour choice: pink or blue so we decided to go with pink.”
Yes, Woike knows what the next question will be.
“Can I still dye Easter eggs? Yes, you can, because when you hard boil them the ink washes off. There will be nothing to interfere with the decorating of eggs,” she said.
Farmer Ben’s purchased the stamping equipment about a year ago, at a cost of about $7,000.
“We needed a new edge. And we asked ourselves, what do our consumers ask us? What do they call about? It’s who are you guys and where are you guys, what do you feed your hens, and where do you get your chicks?
“So, we’ve taken that ability on the egg carton and reformatted that space to allow us to give them that information. Obviously they can still phone us if they want to but lots of consumers like to go and research that stuff themselves.”
The Woikes aren’t changing everything all at once.
“As we roll out, we’re rolling out one product at a time. Revamping egg cartons is obviously expensive and we have to wait until we go through the existing supply we have. As our labels run out, and as we change out our 18 packs, they’ll have that information on them, or our free runs will have that information on them and so forth. Eventually all of our egg cartons will have this.”
Kicking off the campaign is the family favourite, the large brown eggs.