Calgary Co-op members vote in favour of ethical eggs, pork

Calgary Co-op members voted in favour of the grocery store selling cage-free pork and eggs Wednesday at their annual general meeting.

The members hope the Calgary Co-op will phase out eggs and pork that come from animals raised in tightly confined spaces over the next five years.

The proposal now goes to the board to decide whether it's possible.

The vote was sparked by a motion from Clint Robertson, who said most consumers don't realize the conditions surrounding what they're buying.

“For the hens, not even space to properly extend their wings and for the pork, the sows can only take one step forward, one step back,” Robertson said.

“They can't turn around, so it's living in very intense confinement for their entire mature lives.”

Darcy Fitzgerald, Alberta Pork’s executive director, said unless consumers are willing to pay more for meat, it would not be economical for producers to adopt expensive new farming techniques.

“Consumers say one thing often, but their pocket books say something else,” he said.

Egg Farmers of Alberta spokesman David Webb said grocery stores have no business trying to dictate to consumers or producers what kind of foods are sold.

“Passing this motion would set a bad precedent by effectively taking the right to choose away from consumers and farmers,” Webb said.

Susan Gal, who also speaks for Egg Farmers of Alberta, said their farmers are trying to make the transition but they need more time.

"Some will require bigger barns, so it's not just a simple matter of ripping out the existing, you've actually got to rebuild the whole barn and in this province there are rules and regulations that we need to follow," she said. "It takes a lot of time to get permits."

The majority of the pork and eggs we consume are produced through farming that uses either battery cages or gestation crates, which are extremely small stalls and cages that do not allow animals to move around.

But Robertson said other Canadian food businesses — such as Tim Hortons and Safeway — are already moving toward more ethical eggs and pork.