The Journey of Chicken
In breeder farms, each chicken lays approximately 150 to 155 fertilized eggs per year. These eggs are taken to hatcheries and placed into incubators and kept at 37.5ºC. Hatching occurs 21 days after the incubation period.
The next step is determining the sex of each of the birds. Because males and females grow at different rates, barns usually try to place birds of the same sex in their barns. Before they leave the hatchery, the birds are vaccinated to prevent illness. The chicks are placed in heated trucks and delivered to our farmers, all within 6-12 hours of hatching.
At the Farm
Chickens in Canada are raised on family farms. In fact, unlike in many other places in the world, over 90% of all of Canada’s farms are family-owned and operated. Raising chickens requires a high degree of commitment and knowledge. During the seven or eight weeks that it takes to raise a flock, the farmer gives constant care and attention to their health and feeding.
Chickens in Canada are raised in clean, well-ventilated, climate-controlled barns, where they can roam freely. The chicken barn is heated before the chicks are placed, in order to ensure they have warm, comfortable surroundings.
Feed systems and water lines are checked daily to ensure that birds always have unrestricted access to food and water.
The main ingredient of all chicken feed (88 per cent) is grains and grain by-products, protein-producing seeds, and meal made from them such as canola or soybean meal. So, essentially, all chickens are “grain-fed.” Heating, ventilation, humidity and other environmental levels are verified constantly, often using top of the line technology, to ensure that the birds are comfortable and stress-free.
Chicken farmers across Canada follow a strict on-farm food safety program, which sets the standards for raising the chicken Canadians trust. The program was first introduced in 1998, and was developed by farmers for farmers and respects Canadian regulatory requirements, and includes measures for biosecurity, animal health and audited record-keeping to ensure that regulations are being upheld by individual farmers.
The health of the flock is of utmost importance to the farmer, and this is monitored closely. No chickens are ever given hormones or steroids in Canada - the practice has been illegal since the 1960s in Canada - and while some farms will opt to include a low dose of antibiotics in the feed to prevent illness, they must respect a “weaning-off” period determined by CFIA before being shipped to the processor to ensure that no residual medication is in the meat.
After 6 and 8 weeks in the barns, the chickens are transported to the processing plants in trucks designed for shipping poultry. At the processing plant, the chickens are checked by an inspector who makes sure the chickens are healthy, safe and are ready to be sold to the consumer.