North Carolina Hens to your Scrambled Eggs: The Farm to Table Process

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Egg production is an important segment of the agriculture industry in North Carolina, ranking 7th in total North Carolina commodity receipts. In honor of Egg production ranking 7th, here are the 7 steps it takes to get an egg from a hen to you:

 

1. The first step, obviously, is the egg being laid. Hens that lay eggs are fed a high quality diet with added calcium to ensure they stay in pristine health. It takes a hen 25-26 hours to create and lay an egg, and she lays one egg 6 out of 7 days a week. So, it takes about 2 weeks for a dozen eggs to be laid.

2. Regardless, of how long it takes to lay a full dozen, the eggs are still collected daily. Some farms, like Eppie Brown’s, still hand collect the eggs every morning. Others, like Simpson’s Eggs, have a system of conveyor belts to transport the eggs safely to processing.

3. The third step includes the cleaning and washing of the eggs. While all eggs are laid with a natural protectant, this coat decreases naturally and is washed off. Even after washing, eggs that have cracks or stains are all removed.

4. Next, all eggs are candled. Candling means that the eggs are put up to a light to check for any imperfections on the interior as well as exterior abnormalities. The interior and exterior quality is the first step in determining the “grade” of an egg. No imperfections can be found for the egg to continue. From candleing, the eggs get weighed.

5. The reason eggs are weighed is to help determine their full size, as well as the size of the air cell. Egg sizes include small, medium, large, extra large, and jumbo. Chickens lay all of those sizes of eggs during their lifespan, but “large” is the most common size–a dozen weighs 24oz. The size of the air cell is the next step in determining the “grade” of the egg; all eggs laid begin at “grade AA”.

6. After the eggs are graded and sized, they are packaged into different cartons based on those qualifications as well as the color of the egg. After multiple cartons are packaged together, the eggs are put into a cooler until they are loaded on a truck.

7. Finally, the eggs are loaded onto a truck kept at the same temperature as the cooler. The eggs are then transported to your local grocery store, 24-72 hours after being laid. Refrigerated eggs stay fresh 4 to 5 weeks after packaging, without significant quality loss.  (Every carton has a 3-digit Julian date when the eggs were packed.  January 1 is represented by 001 and 365 indicates December 31.)

 

Now that the process is eggsplained, we can only hope that your brain is not scrambled. Even if it is, here are some extra resources to check out to provide you with visual information:

 

Take a Virtual Field Trip to some of America’s Egg Farmers:

 http://www.aeb.org/educators/farm-to-table-virtual-field-trips