“Sustainable sourcing requirements are coming, and the Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) took a unique, pro-active approach to prepare their producers for sustainable sourcing” says Paul Watson, Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Director.
For Alberta’s agricultural community sustainable sourcing means suppliers and consumers are beginning to demand producers demonstrate they are reducing the social, economic, and environmental impacts of food production – everything from soil stewardship and nutrient management to worker conditions and economic sustainability. Programs like Canada Gap, Verified Beef Production, and proAction are just a few examples that exist or are in development of producer groups responding to sustainable sourcing requirements. Watson explains – “The PEEP approach helped EFA take leadership and ownership in determining what sustainability looks like for their industry.”
In 2014, EFA became the first provincial egg producer group in Canada to launch an on-farm environmental program. They developed The Producer Environmental Egg Program (PEEP) to help egg farmers identify their impact on the environment and facilitate the use of best practices. The program was created with the help of their stakeholders and the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (Alberta EFP) in response to market demands for sustainable sourcing.
The concept for PEEP emerged at an EFA board planning session in 2011. EFA and its peers already had strong national food safety and animal care programs, but some consumers and egg purchasers wanted more environmental responsibility.
That was the start of three years of consultation with egg producers, stakeholders and staff at Alberta EFP.
“We looked at several national and international environmental standards before deciding that Alberta’s EFP program was the closest fit to our objectives,” said Jenna Griffin, EFA Industry Development Office. “Many of our producers had already completed an EFP and we are encouraging others to follow suit. The work they have done on their PEEP assessment will give them a good start in completing their EFP.
“Our input helped EFA during this process. We provided information and links to the experts who had developed Alberta’s EFP,” said Dale Chrapko, Environmental Programs Manager at ARD (now Agriculture and Forestry).
Griffin says that they appreciated the help from Alberta EFP and they wanted to develop a program that was customized to egg producers. “We identified nine priorities in the EFP that we wanted to include in PEEP; they were clustered in four topic areas: water consumption, energy efficiency, waste management and manure management.” EFA had these priorities confirmed by their members and stakeholders, and then used the risk ratings from EFP and resources from ARD to support the ratings. The PEEP assessment was done on a few trial farms before it was rolled out in early 2014.
Within 10 months, EFA had reached its goal: 100% participation by its members. “This level of participation came from their producer-driven process,” said Chrapko. “Some organizations mandate participation, but EFA used a consultation model. They had voluntary buy-in from the grassroots up.”
EFA shared their success story in their 2014 Sustainability Report and at a well-attended environmental stewardship workshop for their members and stakeholders held at the end of August. Participants applauded the PEEP program and were keen to offer further ideas and recommendations.
“PEEP is a good model for other commodity organizations looking to customize their environmental programs and Alberta EFP is actively developing opportunities to do similar work with those groups” said Watson. “We are also looking forward to working with EFA and other producer groups who want their members to complete an Environmental Farm Plan. An EFP is a well-recognized designation that helps prepare producers for sustainable sourcing. As a program within a provincial organization with strong relationships with producers and commodity groups, Alberta EFP is uniquely positioned to help them achieve this goal.”
To find out more about PEEP, visit www.eggs.ab.ca. For information on Sustainable Sourcing read the blog here or details on how to register in the Environmental Farm Plan program, go to www.albertaefp.com.