Feather pecking (FP) in egg-laying hens, where individuals peck repetitively and excessively at other birds to pull out and eat their feathers, is a challenge for the industry with large economic and welfare implications. High prevalence of FP is reported (60-80%) and this is associated with mortality rates of up to 20-40%, which translates to hundreds of millions of birds dying due to FP every year.
In 2011, Statistics Canada reported that women comprised only 25% of total farmer numbers. At the same time, an aging male farmer population is causing concern that if the farming sector does not broaden its appeal among women, there will be significant economic implications for its future development. The Egg Farmers of Canada wants to encourage more women to take up egg farming and support existing female producers in their leadership goals, but more knowledge about the systemic reasons for womens limited participation in the industry is needed.
The chicken egg represents an excellent source of nutrients, and the composition of the egg yolk can further be enhanced through modifications to the laying hen diet. While enhanced shell eggs are primarily sold as specialty eggs, an opportunity exists to add further value through the use of novel extraction technologies. The proposed research project will combine existing expertise in egg yolk enhancement with expertise in liquid/protein processing and extraction techniques.