Helping in a Time of Need

By Jeff Hardin
Vice President of Sales, Cal-Maine Foods
Chairman of the American Egg Board

In recent weeks, millions of Americans were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. A lot of people came together in a time of terrible crisis and enormous need. I want to share my experience working with those people on the relief efforts in Texas.

I arrived at the Montgomery Fairgrounds in Conroe about 30 miles north of the flooding on Labor Day weekend where our partners at Tyson Foods had established a base for their relief operations.

To witness firsthand the aftermath and the response to something like Hurricane Harvey in Texas will take your breath away. Driving into the affected area you cannot imagine the sheer scale of the devastation. We’re talking about hundreds of miles of destruction.

There’s a tremendous need for food in disasters like this. And egg farmers feed people. We had a couple of our members come forward right away, and within days we were receiving product and getting it into the hands of people who needed it. These people have lost nearly everything, and yet they’re so thankful for a simple meal.

Conditions early in a disaster situation like this make it impossible to manage fresh eggs in the shell, but very quickly we found a way to get eggs to people. Whether it was scrambled eggs in a bag, hard-boiled eggs, liquid eggs, or protein packs, we distributed more than 27 pallets of product at last count.

There are so many people to thank here that I can’t possibly do them justice, but on behalf of the American Egg Board I’d like to thank our egg producers, our partners at Tyson Foods’ Meals that Matter® disaster relief program, our allied industries, and, at the local level, the Texas Egg Council and the Poultry Science Department at Texas A&M.

Lastly, thank you to those individuals who provided vehicles, who loaded and unloaded trucks, who delivered product—everyone who suited up and showed up. At the end of the day, this effort was entirely about people.

There’s more to do, of course. Those affected by Hurricane Harvey have a long road of recovery ahead, and our attention has now also turned to those who were caught in Irma’s path. There will be long-term needs and immediate ones. I think one of the lessons we learned from Harvey is that we can really be impactful as an industry in the short term.

In closing, we hope and pray that a catastrophe like this never happens again, but when it does there will be an opportunity for all of us to help.

Protein Comparison

The September update shows an increase in the price of milk, ground beef and beef round roast. Eggs continue to be the least expensive source of high-quality protein followed by chicken breast and milk.

Since May, the average cost of eggs increased by 2 cents per dozen. Chicken breast increased by 10 cents per pound, ground beef increased by 16 and beef round roast increased by 2 cents per pound. Milk decreased by 12 cents per gallon, and the average cost of pork chops decreased by 1 cent per pound.

November 2017Protein Chart

 

Sources:

1 1 United States Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service. Retail data for beef, pork, poultry cuts, eggs, and dairy products. Retrieved on February 16, 2017 from https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/meat-price-spreads.aspx.   

2 United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. 2015. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/112?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=egg. Nutrient facts per raw serving.

3 Price is for whole milk, no price available for low-fat

4 Price is for boneless chicken breast, no price available for skinless

40 Years of Egg-cellence: 1976-2016

The American Egg Board is marking its 40th anniversary with a look back at some highlights of its promotional activities, which range from the White House to Disneyland. But first, here’s a quick bit of history.

Forty years ago, AEB was established in Chicago as one of the first national agricultural commodity checkoff programs. Funded by America’s egg farmers, the Board began its mission to increase demand for eggs with an advertising campaign.

Fast forward four decades, and while the tagline from the original Incredible Edible Egg advertising campaign continues — albeit in a more modern guise — AEB’s mission has evolved beyond promotion. Today AEB supports the egg industry by increasing demand for eggs and egg products through research, education and promotion.

40th Anniversary Booklet

40 Years of Highlights

 


Congratulations from the Bacon Brothers

 

Incredible Egg advertising campaigns from the past 40 years.

1976 - 1986

 

1987 - 1996

 

1997 - 2006

 

2007 - 2016

 

Egg Breaking Image

History of Egg Production

From Ancient Times

Since birds and eggs preceded man in the evolutionary chain, they’ve existed longer than historians. East Indian history indicates that wild fowl were domesticated as early as 3200 B.C. Egyptian and Chinese records show that fowl were laying eggs for man in 1400 B.C. Europe has had domesticated hens since 600 B.C. There is some evidence of native fowl in the Americas prior to Columbus’ arrival. However, it is believed that, on his second trip in 1493, Columbus’ ships carried to the New World the first of the chickens, which originated in Asia, related to those now in egg production.

Most people of the world eat the egg of the chicken, Gallus domesticas. Nearly 200 breeds and varieties of chickens have been established worldwide. Most laying hens in the U.S. are Single-Comb White Leghorns.

The Early 1900s

In the 1920s and 1930s, egg farms were still mostly backyard systems. Many farmers had laying hens to supply their own families with eggs and would sell any extra eggs at local farmers’ markets. As selling eggs became profitable, some farms started building up flocks of about 400 hens. The hens roamed around outside with a coop for roosting.

Living outside presented some problems, mainly with weather and predators. Social issues within the flock included the “pecking order” in which bigger and more aggressive birds would eat more of the food, leaving less for the other birds.

Diseases were also a problem, and selective breeding helped to cultivate healthy flocks. For parents of new chicks, hatcheries chose the strongest, healthiest birds with good egg-laying records. These parents passed along favorable genetic factors, such as disease resistance, to their offspring.

Special medicines were developed to help combat parasites, such as leg mites. Scientifically controlling what the birds ate was another major step forward in maintaining healthy hens and ensuring eggs of consistent quality.

While these advances helped, the hens were laying only about 150 eggs a year and had a mortality rate of about 40 percent.

Research on moving hens to indoor living showed many benefits. While they were expensive, specialized large hen houses resulted in much healthier birds. When living indoors, the hens weren’t exposed to predators and the elements, including temperature extremes.

Indoor housing also helped to prevent parasite infestations and reduce the spread of diseases from outside carriers, including rodents and even humans. Instead of the hens eating whatever they found outside, feed could be better controlled indoors, too. Better feeding practices improved both hen health and egg productivity.

These changes reduced hen mortality to 18 percent a year. But some of the same old problems remained, including sanitation, waste control and the pecking order. The eggs were often dirty and exposed to some of the same waste-related bacteria as the hens.

The Mid to Late 1900s

Continuing studies began in the late 1920s. In the late 1940s, some poultry researchers had favorable results with raised wire-floor housing for hens. The separated wire housing came to be called the cage system, and California farmers quickly put the research into practice.

Sanitation greatly improved when hens were raised off the floor. Neither the hens nor the eggs came into contact with waste, and waste removal was much easier. Feeding became more uniform as the more timid hens were able to eat and drink as much as they required, just like the more aggressive hens. This resulted in more uniform egg-nutrient quality and less feed being needed for the flock.

The scientific research on caging proved itself in California. A healthy hen will lay a lot of eggs. With much improved health, California hens each produced about 250 eggs per year and their mortality dropped to 5 percent. Based on these numbers, more and more farms across the country built new facilities with the cage style of housing.

In colder climates, farmers modified the southern structures by enclosing them and adding fans for ventilation. The hens themselves were a great source of heat for the winter. Their combined body heat helped to maintain a comfortable temperature in the houses throughout the winter, and the fans provided the right temperatures in the summer.

The caging system also lent itself to increased automation, which was needed to handle the increased output of eggs from the hens. Conveyor belts were added to the hen house to collect the eggs as soon as they were laid and carry them to the washers.

By the early 1960s, improved technology and the development of sophisticated mechanical equipment were responsible for a shift from small farm flocks to larger commercial operations.

Improving the health of hens through more protective housing and better feeding facilities led to more eggs which led to increased automation to handle the eggs. With increased automation, labor costs were reduced, providing a lower cost to the consumer. In addition to much improved hen health, equal-opportunity feeding also made the nutrient quality of eggs more uniform. Altogether, the changes resulted in a win-win situation for both hens and consumers.

Today

In the major egg producing states, flocks of 100,000 laying hens are not unusual and some flocks number more than 1 million. Each of the roughly 280 million laying birds in the U.S. produces from 250 to 300 eggs a year. In total, the U.S. produces about 75 billion eggs a year, about 10 percent of the world supply.

Each year, about 60 percent of the eggs produced are used by consumers, about 9 percent are used by the foodservice industry and the rest are turned into egg products which are used mostly by foodservice operators to make the meals we eat in restaurants and by food manufacturers to make foods like mayonnaise and cakes mixes.

Using highly sophisticated technology, egg producers have kept prices low. While other food costs have skyrocketed, eggs continue to be one of nature’s best bargains among high-quality protein foods.

New 2015 Dietary Guidelines & Eggs

The recent 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) remove the daily cholesterol limit of 300 mg. The U.S. has joined many other countries and expert groups like the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology that do not have an upper limit for cholesterol intake in their dietary recommendations.

READ MORE FROM THE EGG NUTRITION CENTER

Production Process

Today, just two percent of the U.S. population lives on farms, producing food for the remaining 98 percent of the population. America’s egg farmers continue to modernize egg farming production and processing practices in order to meet the demand for nutritious, high-quality eggs.

America’s egg farmers have very strict safeguards and practices they follow to make sure their hens are healthy and to protect the quality of the eggs.

Hen health and egg quality are the top two priorities on egg farms all day, every day. Egg farmers follow guidelines to ensure the hens are provided with nutritious feed, clean water, proper lighting and fresh air.

Light, housing, diet and health are very important to the production process in order to provide high-quality eggs, and therefore, very important to the egg farmer.

Advances in science and technology help egg farmers preserve safety and quality throughout the gathering, inspecting, packaging and handling process.

The Production Process

The egg production process includes the following phases:

  • Laying: Hens lay eggs in a controlled environment and are fed a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet of feed made up mostly of corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals to produce quality eggs.
  • Collecting: Some eggs are still gathered by hand, but in most production facilities, automated gathering belts do the job.
  • Washing: Although the hen supplies the bloom, a natural coating to protect the porous shell, in nature, the coating dries and is lost. The bloom is also lost through the egg washing process when the eggs are washed and sanitized.
  • Candling: The step in the grading during which the farmer (egg grader) looks inside the egg, without breaking it, to determine the quality.
  • Grading: Farmers classify their eggs by the interior and exterior quality at the time it is packed. Grades include AA, A or B. There is no difference in the nutritional value between different grades and all eggs sold at the retail level must meet the standards for Grade B or better. However, few Grade B eggs find their way to the retail market.
    • Grade AA: Egg content covers a small area – white is firm and has thick white surrounding the yolk, and a small amount of thin white. The yolk is round and elevated.
    • Grade A: Egg content covers a moderate area. White is reasonably firm and has a considerable amount of thick white and a medium amount of thin white. The yolk is round and elevated.
    • Grade B: Egg content covers a very wide area. White is weak and watery, has no thick white and the large amount of thin white is thinly spread. The yolk is wider than normal and flat.
  • Sorting & Packing: Eggs are sorted according to size (minimum weight per dozen) and should be placed large-end up in their cartons.
  • Shipping: Egg farmers ship their eggs in refrigerated trucks. Most eggs in the U.S. reach the grocery store just one day after being laid and nearly all of them reach the store within 72 hours, or 3 days.
  • Selling & Storing: Eggs must be refrigerated. An egg can age more in one day at room temperature than in one week in the refrigerator. The best place for the egg is in its carton on an inside refrigerator shelf.
  • Enjoying: America’s egg farmers produce a high-quality product that provides all-natural, high-quality protein, that is now 14 percent lower in cholesterol (down from 215 mg to 185 mg), and 64 percent higher in vitamin D.

For more information on egg production practices, please contact the United Egg Producers at 770.360.9220, or visit www.unitedegg.org.

Reducing Our Environmental Footprint

Egg Production Statistics

U.S. egg production has significantly decreased its environmental footprint in the past 50 years, according to A Comparative Assessment of the Environmental Footprint of the U.S. Egg Industry in 1960 and 2010.

Researchers at the Egg Industry Center found that today’s hens are living longer due to better health, better nutrition and better living environments. These researchers studied U.S. egg production from 1960 to 2010 in a first-of-its-kind lifecycle analysis.

Despite producing more eggs in 2010, the total environmental footprint in 2010 was 54% - 63% lower than the environmental footprint in 1960.

Using 1960 technology to produce the 2010 egg supply would have required 78 million more hens, 1.3 million more acres of corn and 1.8 million more acres of soybeans.

Water Usage Graphic

In comparison to 1960 technology, today’s egg farmers are able to feed 72% more people.

To read or download a copy of the complete 28-page report on the Environmental Impact of Egg Production, click here.

To view or download the related infographic, click here.

To read the AEB press release, click here.