Canada’s biggest egg producer building huge local plant: ‘Thrilled’

179
As a healthy food, the humble egg has had something of a redemption story in recent years.

High-cholesterol fears of the 1970s have given way to it now being seen as a healthy, high-protein, low-calorie darling of fitness lovers and, yes, it’s heart-healthy, too.

That redemption is taking root in Strathroy as the largest egg producer in Canada, Burnbrae Farms, will build a 100,000-square-foot egg grading processing plant to address growing demand for the food darling.

“When you build, you build for future growth. Eggs have survived the cholesterol myths of the ’70s when consumption dropped and now we’re bullish on eggs,” said Margaret Hudson, chief executive Burnbrae Farms.

Burnbrae Farm
Trucks back into the loading docks at Burnbrae Farms’ egg sorting facility on Ellor Street in Strathroy on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

“Eggs are high quality protein, with vitamins and minerals . . . it has a heath halo now and it’s a very affordable protein with a low carbon footprint.”

Eggs sales have grown steadily at about three per cent annually in recent years and Burnbrae along with it, Hudson said. “We’re building extra space to accommodate extra growth.”

The company will break ground this year on its new plant in Molnar Industrial Park and plans to be in the new plant in 2026, when it will close its Ellor Street operation, where it has been located for nearly 50 years.

“It was on the outskirts of town when we opened this location, now we have houses rising up around it. We have outgrown that location and we need more space,” Hudson said.

The new plant will “incorporate cutting-edge egg grading, automation, food safety, and environmental technologies,” she said.

A sixth-generation family-run business, Burnbrae Farms, headquartered in Lyn, Ont. near Brockville, is the largest family-owned and operated egg business in Canada. The company dates to 1891 when it began as a dairy farm. Burnbrae began selling eggs about 80 years ago, including to the armed forces in the Second World War when they were powdered for soldiers.

Burnbrae looked at other communities for expansion, but decided on staying in Strathroy.

“When a business gets to the point they are ready to grow, to retain them means a lot; they’re reinvesting when they can go anywhere,” said Heather Lalonde, economic development director for Strathroy-Caradoc. “We could not be more thrilled they’re staying here. Any time we can grow a business it’s a huge win.”

Burnbrae now employs about 120 workers in Strathroy, Hudson said. The new plant will be for egg grading and sorting. “They bring in eggs from local producers and inspect them and make sure they’re viable,” she said.

 

Bee Eichler
Bee Eichler stacks flats of eggs at the Burnbrae Farms processing plant in Strathroy on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

 

In addition to Burnbrae, Strathroy is also home to large egg producer Gray Ridge Farms and, last year, Maple Leaf Foods opened in London the largest poultry processing plant in Canada.

“We’re very excited that Burnbrae Farms will continue to be a part of the community with their new location in Molnar Industrial Park,” Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Colin Grantham said.

The new plant will also be environmentally responsible as Burnbrae is committed to being net zero by 2050. The new facility will integrate sustainable building practices and green initiatives including heat recovery, solar technology and electric vehicles as well as replacing natural gas in its plants.

Source: The London Free Press