Sourcing Fresh Free Range Eggs in Vancouver
Once upon a sunny February afternoon, four members of the LUSH team went to visit our free range egg supplier, Rabbit River Farms. Located only 20 minutes away from our Vancouver production facility, Rabbit River supplies the fresh eggs we use in our Cosmetic Warrior, Sacred Truth and Brazened Honey face masks.
Eggs are fantastic for the skin, as they balance the natural sebum production. We were lucky enough to get a personal tour from the owner himself, the delightful and innovative Steve Easterbrook. We arrived to spot a sign outside the front door “Welcome LUSH!” Already charmed, we peeked inside the “barn” door to see the hundreds of eggs being packaged up to be sent out to local grocery stores across BC. Steve greeted us warmly and told us how excited everyone was to have us visit. Before taking us on a tour of the entire facility, which is the only egg production site in BC that both raises hens and packages the eggs, Steve, who comes from one of the original settling families in Richmond BC, took the time to tell us about how his farm came to be. Rabbit River Farms was started by Easterbrook in 1993. His great grandfather owned the first grain mill in Richmond, producing grains for human and animal consumption. As a child, Steve had looked after a few free range chickens in the backyard- a hobby that would later become his life’s work. Steve left farming as a young man, venturing into other “boring industries”, as he put it. Eventually, he felt called back to his roots and decided to purchase a large plot of land. Unsure of what to do next, Steve visited a local organic farm and asked what the market was missing. Can you guess what they suggested? Eggs! At the time, there were no producers of organic eggs in Canada, let alone British Columbia. In fact, there weren’t even any standards for certifying eggs as organic. Steve approached the certification board and they agreed to let him experiment, effectively writing the standards as he went along. The only two rules in existence were “organic land, organic feed”. At the time, organic feed (which by definition includes no animal products of any kind) wasn’t available, so Steve approached a friend of his and, together, they developed one of the first organic animal feeds in Canada.
Did his business take off from here? Not exactly. At first, his farm and processes had to be refined, and some research had to determine what customers wanted. Eventually, Steve convinced a small organic grocery store in Vancouver to sell his eggs. To everyone’s surprise, they were a hit. Customers were willing to pay a little more to ensure that their eggs were organic and the chickens supplying them were treated in a humane environment. As the demand for his organic eggs grew, so did his farm. Today, Rabbit River Farms produces over 216,000 eggs a week! All of the eggs produced are certified organic, free range (meaning the hens are free to walk around outdoors) or free run (hens are kept in an open-concept house with controlled access to the outdoors). His hens are never kept in cages, given antibiotics or any sort of genetically modified feed. Rabbit River Farms is also certified by the BCSPCA (British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Steve was kind enough to show us the entire process, from hen to carton. He took us to the (absolutely massive) main barn, which houses approximately 5200 hens. The first thing we noticed upon walking in was how much quieter it was then we expected. You’d think a few thousand chickens would make more noise! All we encountered was the low hum of wings flapping and beaks pecking in the food troughs. The hens were moving around the barn freely, preening, feeding, and most importantly-socializing. It’s vital for chickens to establish a (literal) pecking order, so being able to socialize normally (without being kept in cages) makes for a harmonious laying environment. After a few photos with our new flock of friends, we followed the conveyer belt that ran from the laying nests to the washing station. Thousands of eggs run through hot water and steam, as per food safety standards, before being carefully inspected for cracks. The eggs are then sorted by weight, packaged and handled by the lovely staff. Steve showed us all the various sizes and colours eggs could come in, calling the little spheres “nature’s perfect package”.The entire process was very complex, yet so simple at the same time.
Steve’s extensive knowledge and experience combined with his passion for farming have revolutionized the way eggs are produced in Canada today. His commitment and passion for his farm is abundantly clear. We hurled questions at him for hours and he answered every one with as much enthusiasm as the first. “I love animals” Steve stated simply. He suggested that much of what we need to live is dependent on contributions from animals, so it only makes sense to give them respect and humane treatment. He often refers to his philosophy as “freedom farming”, meaning farms should be an environment where animals are well taken care of and free to engage in their natural behaviors. He’s constantly challenging himself to "do it better for the birds".
We love that Steve is local, but we also buy from Rabbit River Farms because their values and ethics are in line with ours here at LUSH. Steve summed it up wonderfully for the both of us; "It's about taking ownership and passion in your product".