Small-Scale Egg Handling - Montana

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Small-ScaleEgg HandlingA Publication of ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service 1-800-346-9140 www.attra.ncat.orgBy Anne Fanatico, Ph.D.,and Betsy ConnerNCAT Poultry Specialists 2009 NCATMany small-scale egg producers sell specialty eggs, such as free-range or organic eggs, to the public atfarmers’ markets and other venues and need to wash the eggs or prepare the eggs for market. Immersing or soaking the eggs in water is not recommended, but small- and medium-scale egg washers thatuse brushes and sprayers are very expensive. Small producers often use low-tech methods to cleaneggs, including dry cleaning, dipping and spraying or pouring. Small producers should also candle andgrade eggs to ensure high quality.ContentsIntroduction . 1Keeping eggs clean . 1Egg collection. 2Cleaning . 2Candling . 4Grading . 5Methods for washing,candling, andgrading . 5Storage anddistribution. 9Site facility . 10Egg products . 10Government regulationsand grading . 10Organic egghandling . 11Conclusion . 11References . 11Further resources . 12ATTRA—National SustainableAgriculture Information Service(www.ncat.attra.org) is managedby the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and isfunded under a grant from theUnited States Department ofAgriculture’s Rural BusinessCooperative Service. Visit theNCAT Web site (www.ncat.org/sarc current.php) formore information onour sustainable agriculture projects.IntroductionWhile information on large-scale eggwashing and handling is readilyavailable, there is less information available on handling eggs on a smallor medium scale. This publication coversproactive methods to keep free-range eggsclean through egg collection, egg cleaning,candling and grading. You should be awareof your state’s regulations on the sale of eggsso you will know what practices are required.Information on substances approved for use inorganic production and equipment suppliersis listed in the Further resources section atthe end of this publication.For information on producing eggs in alternative and free-range poultry productionsystems, see ATTRA’s Alternative PoultryProduction Systems and Outdoor Access.Keeping eggs cleanEgg washing is an important issue in alternative poultry production systems becauseeggs often become dirtier in free-rangesystems than in cages. Dust, mud, feces,feathers and contents from broken eggsmay soil as many as 30 percent of eggs infree-range systems (Parkhurst and Mountney, 1988). Free-range systems shouldminimize mud on pastures and makeprovisions such as pallets, straw or gravelat the entrance of the bird doorways toclean the feet of hens entering the poultry house. It is also important to maintainclean nesting material. If eggs are broken

Related ATTRAPublicationsAlternative PoultryProduction Systemsand Outdoor AccessGrowing Your RangePoultry Business:An Entrepreneur’sToolboxOrganic PoultryProduction in theUnited StatesPoultry: Equipment forAlternative ProductionRange PoultryHousingPage 2ATTRAin the nest the other eggs will get dirty.Methods to prevent broken eggs includecollecting eggs often, using a nest with asloping floor (roll away nest) so that eggsroll to a separate collection area andallowing access to the nests only duringthe morning when most birds lay. Hensshould not sleep in nest boxes becausethe hens will defecate. That dirties theeggs and prevents them from rolling out,increasing the potential for breakage.Some nest boxes have a grill or door tokeep birds out during the night, and sufficient perch space will allow birds to roostat night rather than sleep in nest boxes.Provide a sufficient nest area to preventhens from laying eggs on the floor wherethe eggs are easily soiled. If individualnest boxes are used, allow no more than5 hens per nest box. If communal nestboxes are used, follow the manufacturer’srecommendations. The Freedom Foodprogram in the UK allows 1 square meterfor 120 hens in communal nest boxes.This can be calculated as 11 hens for asquare foot. Nests should be designed ororiented to allow birds to avoid brightly litareas during lay; some nests use curtainsfor darkening.Egg collectionIn laying operations, most of the eggsare generally laid within five hours of thefi rst light in the morning. Collect eggsoften — twice in the morning and oncein the afternoon — to help decrease thenumber of dirty and broken eggs andstart cooling eggs (Bigbee and Froning,1997). Collection should be more frequent in very hot or cold weather. Eggsshould be held at 60 degrees Fahrenheitand 70 percent relative humidity beforecleaning. Eggs stored at room temperature, about 75 degrees, can drop asmuch as one grade per day. Embryoscan start to develop in fertile eggs heldat a temperature above 85 degrees formore than a few hours (Parkhurst andMountney, 1988). Keep egg temperature relatively constant until the eggsare washed to avoid sweating. Sweatingoccurs when eggs are moved from coldstorage to a warm environment. Condensation on the surface of the egg facilitatesthe movement of microbes inside the shelldue to moisture. In the past, eggs wereheld in plastic-coated wire baskets so thatthe air could circulate freely among theeggs and cool them. Now, eggs are alsoheld in fi berboard fl ats that hold 30 eggsper fl at. Misshapen, cracked, broken orextremely dirty eggs should be separatedfrom clean eggs.Manual egg gathering is labor intensive.An egg cart, filler f lats and a nearbystorage site will help reduce labor. Inmechanized egg collection, a moving beltbrings the eggs to a section of the housewhere the eggs can be packed into f lats.Eggs are positioned in the f lat with thesmall end down, the same position theyshould be in the carton as well. Roll-awaynests simplify egg collection because theeggs can roll from the sloped floor of thenest to a collection area or belt.Eggs are ideally packed within 24 hoursafter they are laid. U.S. Department ofAgriculture (USDA) rules require thateggs be packed within 30 days of lay. Inprograms that assure high quality, eggsare usually packed within 3 to 7 daysof lay. It is important to remember notto store eggs in coolers with items thatgive off odors, such as onions and citrus,because the eggs can pick up the odorthrough the shell’s pores.CleaningEggs are cleaned to remove debris andstains and reduce the microbial load.Excessively dirty eggs should not becleaned, but rather discarded.Dry cleaningA slightly dirty egg can be brushed with anegg brush or rubbed with a sanding spongeand sandpaper.Small-Scale Egg Handling

Wet cleaningNaturally, the egg has good defenses tohelp protect the embryo during incubation.The shell is covered by a waxy layer (thecuticle) that helps prevent microbes fromentering the pores that allow the passageof gases. The cuticle is not impenetrableand water on the surface of the egg shellcan undermine these defenses becausewater helps bacteria pass through the shellpores into the egg. If the period of contactbetween egg and water is short, there willbe little microbial penetration into the egg(Zeidler, 2002). Therefore it is importantto limit the amount of time that the shellis wet. Soaking eggs in water for as littleas 1 to 3 minutes can allow microbes topenetrate the shell (Zeidler, 2002).Although the USDA does not allow immersion washing (allowing eggs to stand orsoak in water), most small producersare not operating under USDA requirements. Most operate under exemptions tostate egg laws and washing methods areusually not specified. Small-scale eggwashing should take place with a continuousfl ow of water, such as dipping, sprayingor pouring, that allows the water to drainaway from the eggs.Only potable water should be used forcleaning. According to the USDA, ironlevels in the water must not be higherthan 2 parts per million (ppm). Egg whitedoes not contain iron and this helpsprevent microbial growth, but if ironis introduced it may induce spoilage ofthe egg contents (Zeidler, 2002).Interestingly, in Europe Grade A eggsare not washed. This practice is a resultof research done in the early 1900s thatindicated washing eggs before storageresulted in unpredictable and sometimesdeleterious results. However, the lengthof wash time, cleanliness and temperature of the water and the proper use ofsanitizers varied widely in these studies(Hutchison et al., 2003).www.attra.ncat.orgNote that washing eggs can damage thecuticle or bloom, the waxy layer thatseals the pores and helps keep out bacteria. Older egg production books donot recommend washing eggs at all. Inthe past, it was important to protect thecuticle because refrigeration was notalways possible.PrewettingWetting or lightly spraying the eggs withwarm water, about 104 degrees, prior towashing will help loosen debris on theshell (Hutchison et al., 2003).WashingEggs should be washed in water that is atleast 20 degrees warmer than the warmest eggs, and the water should be at least90 degrees. This is to prevent water thatis cooler than the egg from forcing theegg contents to contract and pull waterand microbes through the shell intothe egg and cause contamination. However, the wash water should not be morethan 40 degrees above the temperatureof the eggs or the eggs may experiencethermal cracking.Note thatwashingeggs candamage the cuticleor bloom, the waxylayer that seals thepores and helpskeep out bacteria.Cleaners can be helpful in the washingprocess. According to the Food and DrugAdministration (FDA) the ingredients inthe material used to clean eggs must beGenerally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). Theingredients must also be a substance that isregulated as a food additive (USDA FSIS,2008). Ingredients in compliance with FDAguidelines can be found in the Code ofFederal Regulations. Detergents helpremove dirt and kill microbes during wetcleaning. Detergents generally raise waterpH to 11 and the alkaline environmenthelps kill microbes, including salmonella(Zeidler, 2002). There are many detergentsor egg soaps on the market. For example,Egg Wash Powder is an alkaline chlorinatedfoam controlled powder available throughIncredible Egg Washer Co., Nasco andother suppliers.ATTRAPage 3

Be consciousof whereyour washwater goes, anongoing and excessive use of detergentcould be harmful toyour septic system.In certified organic processing under theNational Organic Program, §205.605of the National List lists nonagricultural(nonorganic) substances that may be usedin processed products labeled as organicor made with organic ingredients. The listincludes natural materials such as citricand lactic acids and synthetic materialsincluding chlorine, hydrogen peroxide,ozone potassium hydroxide, and peraceticacid. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) lists brand name productsthat are allowed under this National List.The name brand list includes AFCO 5242Egg Wash Org, whose main ingredient ispotassium hydroxide. Keep in mind notall possible options are listed becausethere is a cost for OMRI listing.Be conscious of where your wash watergoes, as ongoing and excessive useof detergent could be harmful to yourseptic system. If you dispose of wash wateron farm, a gentler soap or other materialshould be used. IPS-CareFree Enzymes,Inc. has an egg wash product called EggWasher Pro that breaks down contaminantswith a blend of enzymes that make up thewash. Some small producers use a solutionof distilled white vinegar diluted in halfwith water to wipe their eggs. Vinegar canaid in removing stains from the shell and isknown to have antibacterial properties dueto its acidity (Entani et al., 1998).The USDA requires that wash water bechanged every four hours in commercialproduction. Replacement water is addedcontinuously.Defoamers are used with egg-washingmachines to help reduce foaming. Excessive foaming causes water to spill over sidesof tank and this affects water temperatureand pH.RinsingEggs are rinsed to remove adhering dirt,detergents, and foam (Zeidler, 2002). Rinsewater should be a few degrees higher thanthe wash water to prevent drawing the waterinto the egg.Page 4ATTRASanitizingAfter washing, eggs are sanitized toreduce microbial load.Chlorine-based sanitizers should be from50 to 200 ppm (Zeidler, 2002). However, using less than 100 ppm chlorinemay help protect the cuticle (Hutchison etal., 2003). One tablespoon of householdchlorine bleach, usually 5.25 percentsodium hypochlorite, per gallon of waterwill result in a solution of 200 ppm chlorine(McGlynn, 2009). Free chlorine level mustbe frequently checked because chlorine isinactivated by organic material such as dirt.Chlorine test strips are available in restaurant supply stores.Organic requirements permit a fi nal rinsewith a chlorine level less than 4 ppm, thelimit under the Safe Drinking Water Act.See the OMRI product list for approvedsanitizers and check with the individualcompany to ensure the product can beused on shell eggs.Interestingly, in a test comparing theeffectiveness of sanitizers includingchlorine, electrolyzed water and peracetic acid, none of the sanitizers were moreeffective than rinsing with water (Musgroveet al., 2008).DryingEggs should be dried after washing andbefore packing and storing to preventfungal and microbial growth. Eggs can bedried by evaporation, with fan assistanceor by wiping.CandlingIn some states, small-scale producers maybe required to candle eggs to ensure interiorquality of the eggs in terms of blood spots,cracks and more. Even if you are exempt,candling is still important to ensure yourcustomers do not receive fertile eggs withdeveloping embryos, eggs with blood spotsor cracked eggs. If you gather frequentlyand use cold storage, embryos will not havethe chance to develop in fertile eggs.Small-Scale Egg Handling

Brown eggs are more difficult to candlethan white eggs due to the darker shellwhich can generally lead to a higherpercentage of blood and meat spots.GradingGrading involves sorting eggs basedon quality, size and weight standards.Quality is based on shell quality, the aircell, the white and the yolk. For example, the highest quality Grade AA hasa clean, unbroken, unstained shell; theair cell is 1/8 inch or less in depth; thewhite is clear and fi rm; and the outlineof the yolk is only slightly defi ned andfree from defects such as blood spots.The USDA Egg Grading Manual, available at pdf, describeshow grading is done under the USDA(USDA, 1990).Grading also involves sorting eggs intoweight classes or sizes including peewee,small, medium, large, extra large andjumbo. The USDA Egg Grading Manualexplains the required individual egg weightand how much a dozen eggs need to weighfor each weight class. Consumers notice sizevariation within a carton but not as muchfrom carton to carton. Most states do notrequire small-scale egg producers to gradeeggs and cartons usually must be markedas ungraded.Methods for washing,candling and gradingThe capacity of washing methods is oftendescribed in terms of cases. A case is30 dozen or 360 eggs and a half caseis 15 dozen.Manual methodsrecommended because it may allowmicrobes to enter the shell.If you have just a few eggs, use a brushand wash them in a sink with hot runningwater and then dip them in a sanitizer(Bigbee and Froning, 1997). The watershould be warmer than the egg. Prewetting and using a detergent will help.Brushes that can be sanitized are helpful.For example, surgical brushes, which aresmall nylon brushes packed with microbristles, are made to clean hands andunder nails and are useful in egg cleaning because they can easily be sanitizedin the dishwasher or bleach water.Dip washingTo wash several dozen eggs, make upseparate basins of detergent, rinse waterand sanitizer solutions. Wash each eggseparately and do not soak. Dip the eggin rinse water, and then dip it in sanitizer. Using an egg basket or colanderto rinse and sanitize many eggs at oncewill save time. Set eggs aside to dry. Itis important to remember to change thedetergent and rinse water after every 3 to4 dozen eggs. Use gloves to protect handsfrom hot water, detergent and sanitizer(Bigbee and Froning, 1997). Sinks withthree basins are ideal for this method andcan usually be found through bar andrestaurant equipment suppliers. Alsoavailable through similar sources arebrushes atop a suction base that willattach to the bottom of the sink and canbe used under wash water, freeing upa hand in the scrubbing process. Becautious of disposing wash water onthe farm because the detergents andsanitizers may be highly caustic or chlorinated and your septic will suffer if fed themix (Davis, 2005).WashingMethods that use spraying, pouringor dipping reduce the time of contactbetween water and egg. As mentionedearlier, soaking eggs is generally notwww.attra.ncat.orgSpray or pour washingRobert Plamondon, a small-scale producer in Oregon, provides the followingrecommendation:ATTRAPage 5

While the eggs are in wire baskets orplastic egg crates, shower them generouslywith the use of a watering can with 100degrees water that contains detergent andenough chlorine to bring the level to 100200 ppm. Allow the wash water to run awayfrom the eggs by sitting the basket atop adrain. After standing a few minutes the eggsmay need to be watered again. Then wipethe eggs individually with a paper towel.Replace the paper towel often during theprocess. A cloth towel should not be usedbecause it may continue to be used longafter it has become dirty. Clean eggs shouldthen be placed in a clean wire basket orplastic fl at. Clean eggs are then sanitized bygenerously showering them with 100 degreewater that is 100-200 ppm chlorine. Youcan dry the eggs manually or let them airdry. Drying racks can be made with halfinch hardware cloth on a wooden frame. Theeggs will also dry if put into the refrigeratorwhile still in the basket or crates. Wet eggsshould not be placed in cartons becausethey will stick (Plamondon,2001).CandlingFor hand candling, there are manydifferent setups.According to Colorado State Extension,“a suitable light can be handmade bycutting a 1.25-inch diameter hole inthe end of a coffee can. Insert a light bulbfixture through the lid, using a 40-watt bulb.View the interior of the egg by holding thelarge end up to the hole cut in the bottomof the can. As the light passesthrough the egg, twirl the eggseveral times. If blood spots arepresent, you will see them”(Geiger, 1995). Another lowtech way to candle is by tapinga 3-inch length of empty bathtissue paper tube to a flashlight. Suppliers such as Nasco,Kuhl and Rochester Hatcheryoffer hand candlers.GradingCandlers help ensure the interior qualityof eggs. Photo courtesy Maine OrganicFarmers and Gardeners.Page 6ATTRAFor small-scale grading, gravityoperated scales can be found forless than 70. They are availablethrough Kuhl, Nasco, RochesterHatchery and other suppliers.The Jiff y Egg Scale is an inexpensive gravity-operatedegg scale. Photo courtesy of Meyer Hatchery.The small egg scales that most cataloguessell are not very accurate and are not forlegal trade. If you do a lot of wholesaling,you need to get a commercial scale thatwill be inspected regularly for accuracy. Adiet or kitchen scale is usually enough forpeople who sell small numbers directly tothe consumer.Mechanical egg washing andgradingMachinery may be needed if the amountof eggs being processed is too much todo by hand. Although immersion washing is not recommended, there are somemachines on the market. Check withyour state egg laws to see if immersionwashing is allowed. Oregon egg producer Robert Plamondon recommendsonly cleaning 3 dozen eggs per gallon ofwater in the machine before replacingthe water and using the proper amountof chlorine or sanitizer. Prewetting isalso helpful.Immersion washersThe Incredible Egg Washer is a plastic bucketthat handles 8 dozen eggs at a time. Itincludes a 10-inch egg basket and is smallenough to use in a kitchen. An air compressor bubbles water around the eggs. Itcosts about 100 but the air compressor issold separately and costs about 140. It isSmall-Scale Egg Handling

square inch. The system is made to fit ina 5-gallon bucket, which also holds an 8dozen-size egg basket. Eggs are given a 57 minute bubbling warm water, about 100degrees, bath before a rinse in warm water.Eggs that are still dirty may need a quickwipe and another rinse before being set todry (Guebert, 2007).The Incredible Egg Washer uses air bubbles and waterto clean shell eggs. Photo courtesy of The IncredibleEgg Washer Co.offered by The Incredible Egg Washer Co.,Nasco, and other suppliers.Producer Mike Geubert described how tomake a similar system on the farm. Thiscan save on costs, especially if one alreadyowns an air compressor. The bubbler system can be made with PVC piping withholes drilled throughout the base and an aircoupler to connect to the compressor. Theregulator on the compressor can be used toadjust the pressure to 10 to 5 pounds perThe Kleen Egg Turbo Air-Wash, availa ble t h rough Rochester Hatcher y,is a 7-gallon galvanized bucket with aheating element and egg basket. It washesfrom 10 to 15 dozen eggs in 3 to 5 minutes and has an adjustable thermostatto maintain water temperature. It costsabout 400 but also requires an aircompressor to blow air bubbles throught he water. Accord i ng to producerRobert Plamondon, “with a suitably smallcompressor, this would work fi ne in thekitchen”(Plamondon, 2000). The heating element is a 115-volt, 1,500-wattelement. You can fi ll it with hot water fromthe kitchen sink and it is small enoughto pick up and dump used water. In fact,for kitchen use Plamondon does not recommend plugging in the heating elementbecause “by the time the water’s cold, it’sprobably also dirty”(Plamondon, 2000).In this case it would probably only be necessary in a situation where one didnot have access to hot water.Kuhl Corp. offers a large fiberglass immersion egg washerthat cleans from one to eightcases, or 360 to 2,880 eggs,in an hour and operates withan egg crate or egg basket. Itis large enough that it cannotbe lifted to dump water out andrequires a floor drain. TheseKF Models are offered for 110volt or 220-volt electricity andboth cost more than 1,200.The KF Model is a low capacityimmersion egg washer. Photo courtesyof Kuhl Corporation.DishwasherThis is a homemade unit to clean eggs with water andbubbles. The unit is made with three-quarter-inchPVC pipe and drilled with a 3/32-inch bit. Photo byMike Geubert.www.attra.ncat.orgDishwashers are used experimentally forwashing eggs by some small egg producers. Dishwashers are used with a detergentsuitable for egg washing and not dishwasherATTRAPage 7

soap because it is too harsh. Dishwashersmay be able to clean eggs with the sheerforce of the water. Only the top rack shouldbe used, as the bottom rack is too close tothe jets and will cause the eggs to bouncearound and break. The main things thatshould be considered are achieving properwater temperature and drainage.Dishwashers usually heat the water hotenough to potentially cook the eggs. Thiscould be resolved by setting the waterheater to from 110 to 120 degrees andturning off the dishwasher’s heat dryor temperature sensor feature so that itdoesn’t heat the water and the eggs morethan what is necessary.Drainage issues result from the soil andfeathers that are washed off the eggsbuilding up in pipes and eventually creating clogs. The fi lter on the dishwasheris usually large enough to let debris pass.Even though clogs may not be a problemin the beginning, some producers discover a clogged line after several months,especially if there is a large percentageof very dirty eggs. A separate water outlet pipe for an egg-washing dishwashermay be appropriate.Chlorine can be added to the water during the rinse cycle to sanitize the eggs,but it may be time-consuming to wait forthe change in cycles. If the eggs are notextremely dirty just using the rinse cyclemay be sufficient.Brush and spray washersBrushing and spraying is an ideal way toclean eggs. However, there are only a fewsmall brush and spray washing machinescurrently on the market and most eggwashing equipment is very large andruns hundreds of cases each hour forlarge-scale production. Large-scale eggwashers use water sprays and brushes toclean eggs and can process 500 cases anhour. Brushes are usually oriented perpendicular to egg flow. The spinning ofeggs around their vertical axis facilitatescleaning. Wash water is re-circulated inlarge machines and new replacementPage 8ATTRAwater is added to maintain a continuousoverflow.Kuhl Corp. offers the EBEW 1-5, whichprocesses from one to five cases an hour,or from 360 to 1,800 eggs. A recycledspray is used to clean eggs. Eggs arerotated on rubber rollers during cleaning and then pass through a sanitizingspray. A grader or farm packer can beattached.The EBEW 1-5 cleans eggs through a pressure spraywash and sanitizer spray. Photo courtesy of KuhlCorporation.T he Na t i on a l Pou lt r y E q u i pmentCompany offers the Sani-Touch line ofmachines, which come in models 5, 10and 20, referring to the number of casesthat can be processed in an hour. Thesemachines are washer and sanitizer unitswith driers that have optional candlingand grading attachments. The machinesrequire water and drain hookups butcome with their own water heater. TheSani-Touch models do not recycle thewater. The Model 10 is more than 13 feetlong and 2 feet wide, and the Model 5 ismore than 10 feet long without candleror grader additions.An additional attachment is a spool-spinnercandler that rolls the eggs around for viewing and even has a mirror on the back soyou can see both ends of the eggs. It canbe combined with a vacuum-operated eggSmall-Scale Egg Handling

lifter to load six eggs at a time on the candler section. The grader bolts onto the farend of the unit and separates the eggs intosix grades, peewee through jumbo.In the past Sani-Touch units were soldunder the AquaMagic name and havebeen made for decades. It may be possible to find used equipment and partsare still available that work with the oldmachines.Producer Robert Plamondon describes hisused Aquamagic:“The AquaMagic candles, washes (with awater spray and brushes), dries (with fansand more brushes). The washer sectionworks MUCH better than immersion washers, and the drier section means you don’thave to leave eggs sitting around to dry.The washer comes with a little pump thatpumps detergent/sanitizer solution out of abucket and mixes it with the warm washwater. It comes with a chute loader, whichis a ramp that you fi ll up with a row ofeggs. They roll slowly down the ramp asthe washer picks the eggs up one at a time.The washed/sanitized/dried eggs come outthe far end onto a table, where you pickthem up and put them into fl ats or cartons.For a little extra, you can have a candlinglight added onto the chute loader, where abright light shines up through a slot in thechute, allowing you to candle the eggs asthey pass by.”(Plamondon, 2000)The smaller Model 5 sanitizer unit withcandler costs from 10,500 to 11,000(or slightly less without the candler) and 26,500 with the candler and grader. Twopeople can run it at 75 percent of its topspeed. The larger Model 10 S costs about 14,000 with a candler (slightly lesswithout the candler) and 29,000 withthe spool-spinner candler and grader. Itrequires four people — a loader, candlerand two packers — to run it at top speed.The water heater that comes with theSani-Touch models is very intricate. Itmay be possible to connect it up to anexisting source of hot water for somesavings. The machines are sturdy andcan process over 2,000 dozen eggs a day(Plamondon, 2003).www.attra.ncat.orgCandlers and gradersNational Poultry Equipment sells a freestanding grader, the Sani-Touch Model CG.The Egomatic was a candler and grader thatwas sold in the past in the United States andis sometimes sold as used equipment.OilingEggs can be oiled with a food-grademineral oil after washing to help reducemoisture or CO 2 loss, maintain the internal quality of the egg and prevent theintroduction of microbes. In the UnitedStates eggs are generally distributedquickly and oiling is not necessary. Oilingis more important in warmer areas wherethere is a risk of inadequate refrigeration(Hutchison et al., 2003).Storage and distributionAfter processing, eggs should be storedat 45 deg rees to prevent microbia lgrowth. Humidity should be kept at 70to 85 percent. Clean eggs stored at theseconditions will keep for three months(Damerow, 1995). In a standard refrigerator, where the humidity is lower, washedeggs only keep for five weeks.In large-scale commercial production,eggs usually reach the packing plant onlya few days after hens lay them (USDAFSIS, 2007). Eggs packed under federalregulations require the pack date to bedisplayed on the carton. It is a three-digitJulian date that represents the consecutiveday of the year. The carton is also datedwith the sell-by or expiration date (Exp.),depending on the state. Eggs with a federal grade must be sold within 30 daysfrom day of pack (USDAD FSIS, 2007a).The USDA recommends that consumersbuy eggs before the expiration date anduse them within 3 to 5 weeks. In June2006, a USDA Agricultural MarketingService (USDA AMS) rule prohibited therepackaging of eggs previously shippedfor retail sale that were packed under itsgrading program.ATTRAPage 9

Small specialty producers should selltheir eggs within seven days of lay sothat the eggs are as fresh or fresher thanconventional eggs.Site facilityThe handling area should generally beclean and free of insects, vermin andother possible contaminants. Some statesmay require screened windows; rodentpro

Page 2 ATTRA Small-Scale Egg Handling Alternative Poultry Production Systems and Outdoor Access Growing Your Range Poultry Business: An Entrepreneur's Toolbox Organic Poultry Production in the United States Poultry: Equipment for Alternative Production Range Poultry Housing in the nest the other eggs will get dirty. Methods to prevent broken .

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