Eggs are an integral part of a wide range of foods. You can find them at work in every meal of the day. From fluffing your pancakes at breakfast and binding your burger patty at lunch, to thickening that stew at dinner and stabilizing the ice cream you’re having for dessert, eggs are everywhere. But where do eggs come from? Chickens, farms, the store you might say. This article looks at what really happens to an egg between the chicken’s butt and your plate.
Eggs start out inside chickens that live on huge fowl farms and egg processing plants in the country. There are usually over one hundred thousand birds on these premises, grouped about four hens to a cage. These hens basically spend the one productive year of their lives in a cycle of eating and laying, punctuated only by a brief period of sleep.
Enter the egg.
Once an egg is laid, it immediately rolls out of the cage into a compartment designed to make collecting the eggs easy. Next the eggs are machine gathered and whisked away to refrigeration as soon as possible to preserve freshness and discourage bacterial growth. During refrigeration the eggs are packed into sectioned crates that hold 30 eggs each. When it is time to transport them to the cleaning facilities, those crates are stacked into formations that can hold as many as 10,800 eggs or 900 dozens. These are then transported to the cleaning area.
The eggs arrive at the cleaning area and the individual 30 count crates are lined up on a conveyor belt. Little suction cups descend to grasp the individual eggs, lifting them to the cleaning area. As they are held and rotated by the suction, water and brushes gently wash and rinse the eggs removing all crud from their surfaces. They move on to another area where fans blow them dry.
Grading and Packaging
Next, the clean eggs go through a quality checking process called candling. Candling involves shining a light through the eggs individually and can help the candler determine all sorts of things about the quality of the egg such as freshness, stability, and clarity. When all unsuitable eggs have been removed, the remaining ones are weighed individually to determine their size labeling.
Certain minimum weights are used to determine the label of the eggs. For example, an extra large egg must be at least 64 grams and a large at least 56 grams. The eggs are packed into their cartons according to this determination, and shipped off to stores.
So there you have it. You know the next few steps the eggs take before they reach your plate only too well. You buy a crate of eggs at the store, bring it home, scramble them, and the journey is complete. As I promised, we’ve seen these eggs make the whole trip from the chicken’s butt to your lips.