Polar Egg cartons at its former grading station in Hay River. Photo: Polar Egg
A Northwest Territories egg producer hopes to have its brand back on northern store shelves in the next month.
Hay River-based Polar Egg’s name has been absent from the territory’s grocery stores for almost a year after complications associated with setting up a relocated and revamped grading station at its farm.
Without a grading station in the territory, eggs can’t be certified for sale in stores here – but they can still be sent south for grading elsewhere.
Polar Egg’s Kevin Wallington said that meant some of the company’s eggs ended up being graded and packed by other suppliers in the south, then sent back north to grocery stores in the packaging of other brands.
So if you’ve been hunting for Polar Egg for months and settling for others instead, you may have been eating at least some Hay River eggs all along.
Wallington said avian flu drove demand for NWT eggs to be graded and sold in the south.
“We’ve been sending a lot of our eggs to those southern graders because they’re so short right now,” he said, noting the virus led to the deaths of millions of birds in southern Canada and the United States over the past year.
“The eggs we’re producing in the NWT have actually been really important for the national system,” he said – the same national system that, in turn, supplies the territory.
“Our eggs were coming back,” said Wallington. “They just weren’t in a Polar Egg carton.”
Mechanical ‘finishing touches’
Polar Egg has been off NWT store shelves for nearly 10 months.
Early in 2022, the company decided to relocate its grading station so the farm and grading facility could exist in the same place, rather than moving eggs back and forth between the two.
At the same time, Polar Egg sought to upgrade some of its grading equipment – but ran into the supply chain difficulties familiar to almost everyone after the combined impacts of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Then flooding hit the Hay River region, contributing to the postponement of certification for the new grading facility. Now, contractors are working to finish the installation of new parts.
“I would really love to push to see our eggs in the store in early February,” Wallington said.
“It’s a matter of putting the finishing touches on some of the mechanical end of things to make sure it’s all integrated and connected.
“Prior to 2020 and the disruption to our system, you never dreamed of not having your product on the shelves … It has been strange, for sure. I’m looking forward to shifting gears back into full service again and expansion.”