From Farm to Table: How to Produce an Eggcellent product
Egg farming involves more than just waiting around for a hen to do her thing. To ensure egg quality, egg producers must learn how to properly handle the eggs that are produced. The profession requires patience, knowledge, and a willingness to get your hands dirty. Here are some behind-the-scenes tips to become an eggspert in the field.
Hen House Management
The condition of the egg that is collected is directly related to how well the flock is managed. What you feed the chickens matters! When chickens are free to roam, they produce eggs with
yolks that are an eggsquisite, deep orange. This can be explained by their diets. Factory-raised hens are primarily fed a grain-based diet, while free-range chickens enjoy plants that are rich in
yellow-orange carotenoids such as carrots, pumpkins, and the leaves of most green plants. In addition to making for a more aesthetically pleasing egg, the pigment molecules have also been shown to hold antioxidant properties and can indicate the health of the chicken they came from.
How often does a hen lay an egg? The entire time from ovulation to laying is about 25 hours.
Then about 30 minutes later, the hen will begin to make another one. Most flocks will lay a majority of their eggs by 10:00 am. It is always best to collect the eggs as soon as possible after they are laid. The longer the egg is allowed to stay in the nest, the more likely the egg will get dirty, broken or will lose interior quality.
Cleaning and Handling
An egg is delivered in one of nature’s most perfect packages. A protective coating called a bloom, seals the outside of the shell, preventing bacteria from getting in and moisture from seeping out. Most commercial eggs are cleaned as soon as they’re collected, which ruins this hygienic barrier they naturally come with. Occasionally, egg suppliers will replace the bloom with a spray of mineral oil, which gives the eggs a glossy look.
Egg farmers that raise their chickens in organic environments, will sometimes skip cleaning the eggs altogether and rely on the bloom to keep them safe. If eggs are purchased from a small farm, which leaves the bloom on, it’s a good idea to rinse them before the eggs are consumed.
Sorting and Grading
Farmers use a method called “candling” to check the inside of an egg without cracking it open. Candling involves holding a light up to an egg to illuminate its interior. Many years ago, this trick used to be done with candles, which is how it originally got its name. Now, most farmers use special candling lamps or small flashlights to light up their eggs. Farmers with a trained eye know what to look for when checking eggs for cracks, imperfections, and quality yolks and whites. Candling the eggs will also show whether or not an egg has been fertilized.
Inspection, for wholesomeness, is mandatory but grading, for quality, is voluntary. If companies choose to have their eggs graded, they pay for this U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) service. A supermarket carton of eggs comes with one of three different grades—AA, A, or B—based on the quality of the eggs inside. Each of the egg grades have a different texture and quality to the whites, yolks, and shells. It’s important to keep in mind that an egg’s grade is not necessarily an indicator of freshness or taste.
Packaging and Transport
Nature has given the egg a natural package - the shell. Despite its relative strength, the egg is an extremely fragile product and even with the best handling methods, serious losses can result from shell damage. Beyond preventing the shells from cracking, packaging is also crucial in preventing eggs from tainting, being exposed to harsh temperatures, and losing moisture.
Not only is the egg carton responsible for the safety of the eggs, but the labeling on the outside of the carton is responsible for the safety of the consumer. It’s important that egg producers have effective coding equipment, which makes it simple to print readable use-by dates, nutrition information, and grading information. For the successful transport of eggs three essential requirements must be met.
The containers and packaging materials must ensure that the eggs are well protected against damage.
Care should be taken at all stages of handling and transport. It’s important that all workers involved in handling the eggs are aware of the extreme caution that is to be used.
The eggs must be protected, at all times, against exposure to temperatures that cause deterioration in quality, contamination, and tainting.
Whether you like your eggs poached, scrambled, or fried, there are many people to eggspress gratitude to for getting them onto your plate. Let us be the ones you thank for all of your egg carton packaging, labeling, and coding needs. Schedule a free consultation or call us today at (904) 263-2804 to discuss custom designs, coding equipment, and more.