WHAT ARE EGGS?
Shell or Table eggs are names given to eggs produced for human consumption. They are produced by a "layer" hen or female chicken.
Eggs have either white or brown shells, depending upon the breed of
chicken that laid them. The most popular breed for the production of
white eggs is the white leghorn. Several breeds of layers have been
developed from brown egg laying birds like the Rhode Island Red and
New Hampshire breeds that are used for commercial brown egg
WHERE ARE EGGS PRODUCED IN BC?
There are 2.6 million commercial laying birds in BC, 1.7 million
of which are located in the Fraser Valley, 265,000 in the Interior
and 240,000 on Vancouver Island. In addition to the commercial production, there are thousands of small
flocks located throughout BC, most of which have fewer than 100 birds,
with a few up to 400 birds.
HOW MANY EGGS DO WE PRODUCE?
The 132 commercial egg producers in BC produce about 65 million dozen
eggs annually valued at the farm gate at $103 million. The industry
imports an additional 3.6 million dozen and exports 580,000 dozen
annually. These producers are responsible for 95 to 98% of BC egg
production with the balance coming from the small backyard flocks.
The average flock size for the commercial producers is 17,000 with
the largest flock having 55,000 birds.
HOW ARE EGGS PRODUCED?
start to produce eggs when they are 18 to 21 weeks of age. One hen
lays approximately 330 eggs per year.
Most of the laying birds in BC
are housed in cages indoors, to ensure proper nutrition, temperature
control, protection from disease, freedom from predation and
maximization of production and economics. Eggs that are laid in the
cages roll down a sloped floor onto a conveyer belt and are
automatically collected and immediately cooled. The hen house is
lighted artificially for 14 to 16 hours per day, simulating summertime conditions. Egg production is stimulated by increasing
hours of daylight.
Laying hens are provided with complete, balanced diets to support egg production. It takes as little as 1.3 kg of feed to produce a dozen eggs.
After 12 to 14 months of production, egg
production and egg quality declines so at this time, laying flocks are sold to a processing
plant as "spent fowl" . The meat from spent fowl may be used in soups and
boneless canned meats or in pet food.
HOW ARE EGGS USED?
About 82% of the BC egg production goes to the fresh table egg market, where they are purchased directly by the consumer. Table
eggs are an excellent source of nutrition, including protein, vitamins, iron, and minerals. They can be prepared and eaten by themselves -- as fried, boiled, poached or
scrambled, or they can be included in drinks such as eggnog, or used in the preparation of baked items such as
cakes. Eggs are also decorated at Easter time. Ukrainian Easter eggs, called pysanky, are some of the most elaborately decorated eggs.
The remaining 18% of table egg production is processed through a “breaker plant”, where they are broken and the egg contents pasteurized. This “liquid egg” product is used in foods that require raw egg ingredients, by bakeries and food service establishments such as restaurants and hotels. Pasteurized egg products are also used in non-food items such as pharmaceuticals, shampoos, and adhesives.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE EGGS LEAVE THE FARM?
From the farm a refrigerated truck takes the eggs to a grading
station where they are cleaned, graded and packed. The eggs are
washed and sanitized in a tunnel washer. The eggs are passed over a
bright light which shows any flaws in their shell, contaminated
eggs, or meat or blood spots in the egg. This process is called
candling because the light used was originally a candle. The eggs
are then graded according to size and quality. Only the best eggs, which are grade A are packed for retail sale. Grade A eggs are further categorized by size – small, medium, large, and extra-large. A grade A large egg weighs 56 grams or more. The graded eggs are packed into cases of 15 or 30 dozen and transported by refrigerated truck to grocery stores or
restaurants. Eggs should be stored in a cool place and used within 3
weeks of being laid. Eggs generally reach the retail market within 4
to 7 days of being laid.
Eggs that do not make the A grade, and even some of those that do, are shipped to a “breaker plant”. Here the eggs are broken and made into liquid whole eggs or they may be separated into their components egg white or yolk. Liquid eggs are pasteurized and packaged for sale for a variety of uses.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO EGG PRODUCERS FACE?
After a reaching a low point in consumption in about 1995, the per capita consumption of eggs has been rising, and egg farmers are meeting that demand. Eggs are recognized as a healthy food choice, but consumer preferences are changing. These changes include a number of specialty eggs such as Omega 3, free range, free run, and organic.
Many people are
becoming concerned about the confinement of layers in cages.
The egg industry recognizes the benefits of cage rearing which include improved hygiene and management, reduced bird aggression and lower
consumer egg prices, but also strongly supports research into
improved hen housing.
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING EGGS?
- Egg producers
- Hatchery operators
- Equipment suppliers
- Trucking companies
- Grading stations
- Breaker stations
- Hotel restaurant and institutions, as well as bakeries and
- Federal government inspectors
- Provincial extension workers
- Animal Health Laboratory
- Avian Monitoring Laboratory
Interesting Fact About Eggs:
The average chicken lays about seven times her weight in eggs a
Contacts and other resources: