The egg farmers of Alberta are finding new ways to connect local egg producers with consumers, running a farm-to-fork project that turned into a contest to launch a food truck.
David Webb, marketing and communications co-ordinator at the Egg Farmers of Alberta, said the organization knew it wanted a food truck, but couldn’t operate a for-profit business as a non-profit. With no egg-focused food truck already in existence to partner with, they decided to create one.
“We dreamed up this idea to run a contest to make funding available for our potential food truck owner to help with the start-up costs and that it would ultimately be their business to run,” said Webb.
The applicants had to have a full business proposal, a rough idea of what their menu would look like, and a plan on how they would use the food truck as a way of representing the industry and egg farmers.
“Through that process, we met chef Jordon and he really blew us away with his background story, his passion for cooking and his desire to operate a food truck. [We] even we lucked out because he even has a bit of a farming background.”
Jordon Henkel worked previously at the restaurant Notable, owned by his father-in-law, chef Michael Noble, before ending up on disability leave. After being diagnosed with a form of spinal arthritis, Henkel was on leave for almost two years.
Henkel entered the contest while still on disability, and after they had chosen him, his health still wasn’t 100 per cent.
“I went back to them and I actually told them they might want to give the sponsorship to somebody else, they looked at me and said, ‘We’re a family organization. We deal with families all the time and you’re a part of that family so we’re going to wait until your body is ready so that we can do this with you,’” said Henkel.
His menu tasting impressed them in the process, which now boasts a wagyu steak and fried egg taco, scotch egg and monte cristo sandwich with a whisky pickle.
“The food truck we thought is a great way to build a positive story, so that we can get people thinking about food and thinking about this case, eggs, thinking about eggs beyond just your scrambled eggs, fried eggs, omelettes, how can we use eggs more,” said Webb.
For Henkel, being able to know the farmers and know where the food comes from is important to him as a chef.
“I’ve gone to butcher shops and seen how they’ve done everything, from killing the cows at my family's farm ... it’s heavy stuff. Seeing an animal get shot in front of you is important for people to see, I think. It allows a lot more respect when it comes to food.”
Jerry Hofer, the egg manager at the Hutterite colony near Fairview, has been very pleased with the launch of the food truck as an initiative to create awareness of locally produced eggs.
“We need to get the word out and let people know where their eggs are coming from,” said Hofer. “Getting the word out for what we’re doing and how humane we’re doing it, how much effort we put into looking after our birds.”
The increase of all-day breakfasts at fast food chains has also had a positive impact on producers, creating more demand for eggs.
“Yes, for us, it’s always the same, we work with our birds. Sure we can build bigger barns too, which helps out a lot, but overall we still keep busy with trying to keep the animals all safe and healthy, and keeping the eggs fresh, so it’s really nice to see that,” said Hofer.
All day breakfasts have “actually has had a really good impact right now. The egg industry for 11 years in a row has been a growth market, which is fantastic. Right now I think we’re growing at about five to six per cent annually,” said Webb.
Henkel has been travelling to egg colonies to see facilities and connect with farmers, bringing along the Crack’d YYC food truck to check out.
“I’d love to see farmers actually get a little bit more out of what they do, a little bit more respect. More money would be incredible because farmers work the longest days out of anybody.”
The food truck launch overall creates the opportunity to connect with a different platform for consumers to relate to.
“It all funnels down to the farm and just means more opportunity for farmers to get their product out there and again, at the grocery level and at the restaurants, the more people are eating eggs the happier our farmers are to produce them,” said Webb.
Crack’d YYC’s full menu is posted on the side of the truck, and their location updates can be found through its Facebook page.
- By Casey Richardson