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.