Small Scale Egg Handling

Small Scale Egg Handling
Egg Handling
A Publication of ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 •
By Anne Fanatico, Ph.D.,
and Betsy Conner
NCAT Poultry Specialists
© 2009 NCAT
Many small-scale egg producers sell specialty eggs, such as free-range or organic eggs, to the public at
farmers’ 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 that
use brushes and sprayers are very expensive. Small producers often use low-tech methods to clean
eggs, including dry cleaning, dipping and spraying or pouring. Small producers should also candle and
grade eggs to ensure high quality.
Introduction ..................... 1
Keeping eggs clean ....... 1
Egg collection.................. 2
Cleaning ............................ 2
Candling ............................ 4
Grading .............................. 5
Methods for washing,
candling, and
grading .............................. 5
Storage and
distribution....................... 9
Site facility ...................... 10
Egg products ................. 10
Government regulations
and grading .................... 10
Organic egg
handling .......................... 11
Conclusion ...................... 11
References ...................... 11
Further resources ......... 12
ATTRA—National Sustainable
Agriculture Information Service
( is managed
by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and is
funded under a grant from the
United States Department of
Agriculture’s Rural BusinessCooperative Service. Visit the
NCAT Web site (
sarc_current.php) for
more information on
our sustainable agriculture projects.
hile information on large-scale egg
washing and handling is readily
available, there is less information available on handling eggs on a small
or medium scale. This publication covers
proactive methods to keep free-range eggs
clean through egg collection, egg cleaning,
candling and grading. You should be aware
of your state’s regulations on the sale of eggs
so you will know what practices are required.
Information on substances approved for use in
organic production and equipment suppliers
is listed in the Further resources section at
the end of this publication.
For information on producing eggs in alternative and free-range poultry production
systems, see ATTRA’s Alternative Poultry
Production Systems and Outdoor Access.
Keeping eggs clean
Egg washing is an important issue in alternative poultry production systems because
eggs often become dirtier in free-range
systems than in cages. Dust, mud, feces,
feathers and contents from broken eggs
may soil as many as 30 percent of eggs in
free-range systems (Parkhurst and Mountney, 1988). Free-range systems should
minimize mud on pastures and make
provisions such as pallets, straw or gravel
at the entrance of the bird doorways to
clean the feet of hens entering the poultry house. It is also important to maintain
clean nesting material. If eggs are broken
Related ATTRA
Alternative Poultry
Production Systems
and Outdoor Access
Growing Your Range
Poultry Business:
An Entrepreneur’s
Organic Poultry
Production in the
United States
Poultry: Equipment for
Alternative Production
Range Poultry
Page 2
in the nest the other eggs will get dirty.
Methods to prevent broken eggs include
collecting eggs often, using a nest with a
sloping floor (roll away nest) so that eggs
roll to a separate collection area and
allowing access to the nests only during
the morning when most birds lay. Hens
should not sleep in nest boxes because
the hens will defecate. That dirties the
eggs and prevents them from rolling out,
increasing the potential for breakage.
Some nest boxes have a grill or door to
keep birds out during the night, and sufficient perch space will allow birds to roost
at night rather than sleep in nest boxes.
Provide a sufficient nest area to prevent
hens from laying eggs on the floor where
the eggs are easily soiled. If individual
nest boxes are used, allow no more than
5 hens per nest box. If communal nest
boxes are used, follow the manufacturer’s
recommendations. The Freedom Food
program in the UK allows 1 square meter
for 120 hens in communal nest boxes.
This can be calculated as 11 hens for a
square foot. Nests should be designed or
oriented to allow birds to avoid brightly lit
areas during lay; some nests use curtains
for darkening.
Egg collection
In laying operations, most of the eggs
are generally laid within five hours of the
fi rst light in the morning. Collect eggs
often — twice in the morning and once
in the afternoon — to help decrease the
number of dirty and broken eggs and
start cooling eggs (Bigbee and Froning,
1997). Collection should be more frequent in very hot or cold weather. Eggs
should be held at 60 degrees Fahrenheit
and 70 percent relative humidity before
cleaning. Eggs stored at room temperature, about 75 degrees, can drop as
much as one grade per day. Embryos
can start to develop in fertile eggs held
at a temperature above 85 degrees for
more than a few hours (Parkhurst and
Mountney, 1988). Keep egg temperature relatively constant until the eggs
are washed to avoid sweating. Sweating
occurs when eggs are moved from cold
storage to a warm environment. Condensation on the surface of the egg facilitates
the movement of microbes inside the shell
due to moisture. In the past, eggs were
held in plastic-coated wire baskets so that
the air could circulate freely among the
eggs and cool them. Now, eggs are also
held in fi berboard fl ats that hold 30 eggs
per fl at. Misshapen, cracked, broken or
extremely dirty eggs should be separated
from clean eggs.
Manual egg gathering is labor intensive.
An egg cart, filler f lats and a nearby
storage site will help reduce labor. In
mechanized egg collection, a moving belt
brings the eggs to a section of the house
where the eggs can be packed into f lats.
Eggs are positioned in the f lat with the
small end down, the same position they
should be in the carton as well. Roll-away
nests simplify egg collection because the
eggs can roll from the sloped floor of the
nest to a collection area or belt.
Eggs are ideally packed within 24 hours
after they are laid. U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) rules require that
eggs be packed within 30 days of lay. In
programs that assure high quality, eggs
are usually packed within 3 to 7 days
of lay. It is important to remember not
to store eggs in coolers with items that
give off odors, such as onions and citrus,
because the eggs can pick up the odor
through the shell’s pores.
Eggs are cleaned to remove debris and
stains and reduce the microbial load.
Excessively dirty eggs should not be
cleaned, but rather discarded.
Dry cleaning
A slightly dirty egg can be brushed with an
egg brush or rubbed with a sanding sponge
and sandpaper.
Small-Scale Egg Handling
Wet cleaning
Naturally, the egg has good defenses to
help protect the embryo during incubation.
The shell is covered by a waxy layer (the
cuticle) that helps prevent microbes from
entering the pores that allow the passage
of gases. The cuticle is not impenetrable
and water on the surface of the egg shell
can undermine these defenses because
water helps bacteria pass through the shell
pores into the egg. If the period of contact
between egg and water is short, there will
be little microbial penetration into the egg
(Zeidler, 2002). Therefore it is important
to limit the amount of time that the shell
is wet. Soaking eggs in water for as little
as 1 to 3 minutes can allow microbes to
penetrate the shell (Zeidler, 2002).
Although the USDA does not allow immersion washing (allowing eggs to stand or
soak in water), most small producers
are not operating under USDA requirements. Most operate under exemptions to
state egg laws and washing methods are
usually not specified. Small-scale egg
washing should take place with a continuous
fl ow of water, such as dipping, spraying
or pouring, that allows the water to drain
away from the eggs.
Only potable water should be used for
cleaning. According to the USDA, iron
levels in the water must not be higher
than 2 parts per million (ppm). Egg white
does not contain iron and this helps
prevent microbial growth, but if iron
is introduced it may induce spoilage of
the egg contents (Zeidler, 2002).
Interestingly, in Europe Grade A eggs
are not washed. This practice is a result
of research done in the early 1900s that
indicated washing eggs before storage
resulted in unpredictable and sometimes
deleterious results. However, the length
of wash time, cleanliness and temperature of the water and the proper use of
sanitizers varied widely in these studies
(Hutchison et al., 2003).
Note that washing eggs can damage the
cuticle or bloom, the waxy layer that
seals the pores and helps keep out bacteria. Older egg production books do
not recommend washing eggs at all. In
the past, it was important to protect the
cuticle because refrigeration was not
always possible.
Wetting or lightly spraying the eggs with
warm water, about 104 degrees, prior to
washing will help loosen debris on the
shell (Hutchison et al., 2003).
Eggs should be washed in water that is at
least 20 degrees warmer than the warmest eggs, and the water should be at least
90 degrees. This is to prevent water that
is cooler than the egg from forcing the
egg contents to contract and pull water
and microbes through the shell into
the egg and cause contamination. However, the wash water should not be more
than 40 degrees above the temperature
of the eggs or the eggs may experience
thermal cracking.
ote that
eggs can
damage the cuticle
or bloom, the waxy
layer that seals the
pores and helps
keep out bacteria.
Cleaners can be helpful in the washing
process. According to the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) the ingredients in
the material used to clean eggs must be
Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). The
ingredients must also be a substance that is
regulated as a food additive (USDA FSIS,
2008). Ingredients in compliance with FDA
guidelines can be found in the Code of
Federal Regulations. Detergents help
remove dirt and kill microbes during wet
cleaning. Detergents generally raise water
pH to 11 and the alkaline environment
helps kill microbes, including salmonella
(Zeidler, 2002). There are many detergents
or egg soaps on the market. For example,
Egg Wash Powder is an alkaline chlorinated
foam controlled powder available through
Incredible Egg Washer Co., Nasco and
other suppliers.
Page 3
e conscious
of where
your wash
water goes, an
ongoing and excessive use of detergent
could be harmful to
your septic system.
In certified organic processing under the
National Organic Program, §205.605
of the National List lists nonagricultural
(nonorganic) substances that may be used
in processed products labeled as organic
or made with organic ingredients. The list
includes natural materials such as citric
and lactic acids and synthetic materials
including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide,
ozone potassium hydroxide, and peracetic
acid. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) lists brand name products
that are allowed under this National List.
The name brand list includes AFCO 5242
Egg Wash Org, whose main ingredient is
potassium hydroxide. Keep in mind not
all possible options are listed because
there is a cost for OMRI listing.
Be conscious of where your wash water
goes, as ongoing and excessive use
of detergent could be harmful to your
septic system. If you dispose of wash water
on farm, a gentler soap or other material
should be used. IPS-CareFree Enzymes,
Inc. has an egg wash product called Egg
Washer Pro that breaks down contaminants
with a blend of enzymes that make up the
wash. Some small producers use a solution
of distilled white vinegar diluted in half
with water to wipe their eggs. Vinegar can
aid in removing stains from the shell and is
known to have antibacterial properties due
to its acidity (Entani et al., 1998).
The USDA requires that wash water be
changed every four hours in commercial
production. Replacement water is added
Defoamers are used with egg-washing
machines to help reduce foaming. Excessive foaming causes water to spill over sides
of tank and this affects water temperature
and pH.
Eggs are rinsed to remove adhering dirt,
detergents, and foam (Zeidler, 2002). Rinse
water should be a few degrees higher than
the wash water to prevent drawing the water
into the egg.
Page 4
After washing, eggs are sanitized to
reduce microbial load.
Chlorine-based sanitizers should be from
50 to 200 ppm (Zeidler, 2002). However, using less than 100 ppm chlorine
may help protect the cuticle (Hutchison et
al., 2003). One tablespoon of household
chlorine bleach, usually 5.25 percent
sodium hypochlorite, per gallon of water
will result in a solution of 200 ppm chlorine
(McGlynn, 2009). Free chlorine level must
be frequently checked because chlorine is
inactivated by organic material such as dirt.
Chlorine test strips are available in restaurant supply stores.
Organic requirements permit a fi nal rinse
with a chlorine level less than 4 ppm, the
limit under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
See the OMRI product list for approved
sanitizers and check with the individual
company to ensure the product can be
used on shell eggs.
Interestingly, in a test comparing the
effectiveness of sanitizers including
chlorine, electrolyzed water and peracetic acid, none of the sanitizers were more
effective than rinsing with water (Musgrove
et al., 2008).
Eggs should be dried after washing and
before packing and storing to prevent
fungal and microbial growth. Eggs can be
dried by evaporation, with fan assistance
or by wiping.
In some states, small-scale producers may
be required to candle eggs to ensure interior
quality of the eggs in terms of blood spots,
cracks and more. Even if you are exempt,
candling is still important to ensure your
customers do not receive fertile eggs with
developing embryos, eggs with blood spots
or cracked eggs. If you gather frequently
and use cold storage, embryos will not have
the chance to develop in fertile eggs.
Small-Scale Egg Handling
Brown eggs are more difficult to candle
than white eggs due to the darker shell
which can generally lead to a higher
percentage of blood and meat spots.
Grading involves sorting eggs based
on quality, size and weight standards.
Quality is based on shell quality, the air
cell, the white and the yolk. For example, the highest quality Grade AA has
a clean, unbroken, unstained shell; the
air cell is 1/8 inch or less in depth; the
white is clear and fi rm; and the outline
of the yolk is only slightly defi ned and
free from defects such as blood spots.
The USDA Egg Grading Manual, available at
EggGrading%20manual.pdf, describes
how grading is done under the USDA
(USDA, 1990).
Grading also involves sorting eggs into
weight classes or sizes including peewee,
small, medium, large, extra large and
jumbo. The USDA Egg Grading Manual
explains the required individual egg weight
and how much a dozen eggs need to weigh
for each weight class. Consumers notice size
variation within a carton but not as much
from carton to carton. Most states do not
require small-scale egg producers to grade
eggs and cartons usually must be marked
as ungraded.
Methods for washing,
candling and grading
The capacity of washing methods is often
described in terms of cases. A case is
30 dozen or 360 eggs and a half case
is 15 dozen.
Manual methods
recommended because it may allow
microbes to enter the shell.
If you have just a few eggs, use a brush
and wash them in a sink with hot running
water and then dip them in a sanitizer
(Bigbee and Froning, 1997). The water
should be warmer than the egg. Prewetting and using a detergent will help.
Brushes that can be sanitized are helpful.
For example, surgical brushes, which are
small nylon brushes packed with micro
bristles, are made to clean hands and
under nails and are useful in egg cleaning because they can easily be sanitized
in the dishwasher or bleach water.
Dip washing
To wash several dozen eggs, make up
separate basins of detergent, rinse water
and sanitizer solutions. Wash each egg
separately and do not soak. Dip the egg
in rinse water, and then dip it in sanitizer. Using an egg basket or colander
to rinse and sanitize many eggs at once
will save time. Set eggs aside to dry. It
is important to remember to change the
detergent and rinse water after every 3 to
4 dozen eggs. Use gloves to protect hands
from hot water, detergent and sanitizer
(Bigbee and Froning, 1997). Sinks with
three basins are ideal for this method and
can usually be found through bar and
restaurant equipment suppliers. Also
available through similar sources are
brushes atop a suction base that will
attach to the bottom of the sink and can
be used under wash water, freeing up
a hand in the scrubbing process. Be
cautious of disposing wash water on
the farm because the detergents and
sanitizers may be highly caustic or chlorinated and your septic will suffer if fed the
mix (Davis, 2005).
Methods that use spraying, pouring
or dipping reduce the time of contact
between water and egg. As mentioned
earlier, soaking eggs is generally not
Spray or pour washing
Robert Plamondon, a small-scale producer in Oregon, provides the following
Page 5
While the eggs are in wire baskets or
plastic egg crates, shower them generously
with the use of a watering can with 100
degrees water that contains detergent and
enough chlorine to bring the level to 100200 ppm. Allow the wash water to run away
from the eggs by sitting the basket atop a
drain. After standing a few minutes the eggs
may need to be watered again. Then wipe
the eggs individually with a paper towel.
Replace the paper towel often during the
process. A cloth towel should not be used
because it may continue to be used long
after it has become dirty. Clean eggs should
then be placed in a clean wire basket or
plastic fl at. Clean eggs are then sanitized by
generously showering them with 100 degree
water that is 100-200 ppm chlorine. You
can dry the eggs manually or let them air
dry. Drying racks can be made with halfinch hardware cloth on a wooden frame. The
eggs will also dry if put into the refrigerator
while still in the basket or crates. Wet eggs
should not be placed in cartons because
they will stick (Plamondon,2001).
For hand candling, there are many
different setups.
According to Colorado State Extension,
“a suitable light can be handmade by
cutting a 1.25-inch diameter hole in
the end of a coffee can. Insert a light bulb
fixture through the lid, using a 40-watt bulb.
View the interior of the egg by holding the
large end up to the hole cut in the bottom
of the can. As the light passes
through the egg, twirl the egg
several times. If blood spots are
present, you will see them”
(Geiger, 1995). Another lowtech way to candle is by taping
a 3-inch length of empty bath
tissue paper tube to a flashlight. Suppliers such as Nasco,
Kuhl and Rochester Hatchery
offer hand candlers.
Candlers help ensure the interior quality
of eggs. Photo courtesy Maine Organic
Farmers and Gardeners.
Page 6
For small-scale grading, gravity
operated scales can be found for
less than $70. They are available
through Kuhl, Nasco, Rochester
Hatchery and other suppliers.
The Jiff y Egg Scale is an inexpensive gravity-operated
egg scale. Photo courtesy of Meyer Hatchery.
The small egg scales that most catalogues
sell are not very accurate and are not for
legal trade. If you do a lot of wholesaling,
you need to get a commercial scale that
will be inspected regularly for accuracy. A
diet or kitchen scale is usually enough for
people who sell small numbers directly to
the consumer.
Mechanical egg washing and
Machinery may be needed if the amount
of eggs being processed is too much to
do by hand. Although immersion washing is not recommended, there are some
machines on the market. Check with
your state egg laws to see if immersion
washing is allowed. Oregon egg producer Robert Plamondon recommends
only cleaning 3 dozen eggs per gallon of
water in the machine before replacing
the water and using the proper amount
of chlorine or sanitizer. Prewetting is
also helpful.
Immersion washers
The Incredible Egg Washer is a plastic bucket
that handles 8 dozen eggs at a time. It
includes a 10-inch egg basket and is small
enough to use in a kitchen. An air compressor bubbles water around the eggs. It
costs about $100 but the air compressor is
sold separately and costs about $140. It is
Small-Scale Egg Handling
square inch. The system is made to fit in
a 5-gallon bucket, which also holds an 8dozen-size egg basket. Eggs are given a 57 minute bubbling warm water, about 100
degrees, bath before a rinse in warm water.
Eggs that are still dirty may need a quick
wipe and another rinse before being set to
dry (Guebert, 2007).
The Incredible Egg Washer uses air bubbles and water
to clean shell eggs. Photo courtesy of The Incredible
Egg Washer Co.
offered by The Incredible Egg Washer Co.,
Nasco, and other suppliers.
Producer Mike Geubert described how to
make a similar system on the farm. This
can save on costs, especially if one already
owns an air compressor. The bubbler system can be made with PVC piping with
holes drilled throughout the base and an air
coupler to connect to the compressor. The
regulator on the compressor can be used to
adjust the pressure to 10 to 5 pounds per
The Kleen Egg Turbo Air-Wash, availa ble t h rough Rochester Hatcher y,
is a 7-gallon galvanized bucket with a
heating element and egg basket. It washes
from 10 to 15 dozen eggs in 3 to 5 minutes and has an adjustable thermostat
to maintain water temperature. It costs
about $400 but also requires an air
compressor to blow air bubbles through
t he water. Accord i ng to producer
Robert Plamondon, “with a suitably small
compressor, this would work fi ne in the
kitchen”(Plamondon, 2000). The heating element is a 115-volt, 1,500-watt
element. You can fi ll it with hot water from
the kitchen sink and it is small enough
to pick up and dump used water. In fact,
for kitchen use Plamondon does not recommend plugging in the heating element
because “by the time the water’s cold, it’s
probably also dirty”(Plamondon, 2000).
In this case it would probably only be necessary in a situation where one did
not have access to hot water.
Kuhl Corp. offers a large fiberglass immersion egg washer
that cleans from one to eight
cases, or 360 to 2,880 eggs,
in an hour and operates with
an egg crate or egg basket. It
is large enough that it cannot
be lifted to dump water out and
requires a floor drain. These
KF Models are offered for 110volt or 220-volt electricity and
both cost more than $1,200.
The KF Model is a low capacity
immersion egg washer. Photo courtesy
of Kuhl Corporation.
This is a homemade unit to clean eggs with water and
bubbles. The unit is made with three-quarter-inch
PVC pipe and drilled with a 3/32-inch bit. Photo by
Mike Geubert.
Dishwashers are used experimentally for
washing eggs by some small egg producers. Dishwashers are used with a detergent
suitable for egg washing and not dishwasher
Page 7
soap because it is too harsh. Dishwashers
may be able to clean eggs with the sheer
force of the water. Only the top rack should
be used, as the bottom rack is too close to
the jets and will cause the eggs to bounce
around and break. The main things that
should be considered are achieving proper
water temperature and drainage.
Dishwashers usually heat the water hot
enough to potentially cook the eggs. This
could be resolved by setting the water
heater to from 110 to 120 degrees and
turning off the dishwasher’s heat dry
or temperature sensor feature so that it
doesn’t heat the water and the eggs more
than what is necessary.
Drainage issues result from the soil and
feathers that are washed off the eggs
building up in pipes and eventually creating clogs. The fi lter on the dishwasher
is usually large enough to let debris pass.
Even though clogs may not be a problem
in the beginning, some producers discover a clogged line after several months,
especially if there is a large percentage
of very dirty eggs. A separate water outlet pipe for an egg-washing dishwasher
may 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 for
the change in cycles. If the eggs are not
extremely dirty just using the rinse cycle
may be sufficient.
Brush and spray washers
Brushing and spraying is an ideal way to
clean eggs. However, there are only a few
small brush and spray washing machines
currently on the market and most eggwashing equipment is very large and
runs hundreds of cases each hour for
large-scale production. Large-scale egg
washers use water sprays and brushes to
clean eggs and can process 500 cases an
hour. Brushes are usually oriented perpendicular to egg flow. The spinning of
eggs around their vertical axis facilitates
cleaning. Wash water is re-circulated in
large machines and new replacement
Page 8
water is added to maintain a continuous
Kuhl Corp. offers the EBEW 1-5, which
processes from one to five cases an hour,
or from 360 to 1,800 eggs. A recycled
spray is used to clean eggs. Eggs are
rotated on rubber rollers during cleaning and then pass through a sanitizing
spray. A grader or farm packer can be
The EBEW 1-5 cleans eggs through a pressure spray
wash and sanitizer spray. Photo courtesy of Kuhl
T he Na t i on a l Pou lt r y E q u i pment
Company offers the Sani-Touch line of
machines, which come in models 5, 10
and 20, referring to the number of cases
that can be processed in an hour. These
machines are washer and sanitizer units
with driers that have optional candling
and grading attachments. The machines
require water and drain hookups but
come with their own water heater. The
Sani-Touch models do not recycle the
water. The Model 10 is more than 13 feet
long and 2 feet wide, and the Model 5 is
more than 10 feet long without candler
or grader additions.
An additional attachment is a spool-spinner
candler that rolls the eggs around for viewing and even has a mirror on the back so
you can see both ends of the eggs. It can
be combined with a vacuum-operated egg
Small-Scale Egg Handling
lifter to load six eggs at a time on the candler section. The grader bolts onto the far
end of the unit and separates the eggs into
six grades, peewee through jumbo.
In the past Sani-Touch units were sold
under the AquaMagic name and have
been made for decades. It may be possible to find used equipment and parts
are still available that work with the old
Producer Robert Plamondon describes his
used Aquamagic:
“The AquaMagic candles, washes (with a
water spray and brushes), dries (with fans
and more brushes). The washer section
works MUCH better than immersion washers, and the drier section means you don’t
have to leave eggs sitting around to dry.
The washer comes with a little pump that
pumps detergent/sanitizer solution out of a
bucket and mixes it with the warm wash
water. It comes with a chute loader, which
is a ramp that you fi ll up with a row of
eggs. They roll slowly down the ramp as
the washer picks the eggs up one at a time.
The washed/sanitized/dried eggs come out
the far end onto a table, where you pick
them up and put them into fl ats or cartons.
For a little extra, you can have a candling
light added onto the chute loader, where a
bright light shines up through a slot in the
chute, allowing you to candle the eggs as
they pass by.”(Plamondon, 2000)
The smaller Model 5 sanitizer unit with
candler costs from $10,500 to $11,000
(or slightly less without the candler) and
$26,500 with the candler and grader. Two
people can run it at 75 percent of its top
speed. The larger Model 10 S costs about
$14,000 with a candler (slightly less
without the candler) and $29,000 with
the spool-spinner candler and grader. It
requires four people — a loader, candler
and two packers — to run it at top speed.
The water heater that comes with the
Sani-Touch models is very intricate. It
may be possible to connect it up to an
existing source of hot water for some
savings. The machines are sturdy and
can process over 2,000 dozen eggs a day
(Plamondon, 2003).
Candlers and graders
National Poultry Equipment sells a freestanding grader, the Sani-Touch Model CG.
The Egomatic was a candler and grader that
was sold in the past in the United States and
is sometimes sold as used equipment.
Eggs can be oiled with a food-grade
mineral oil after washing to help reduce
moisture or CO 2 loss, maintain the internal quality of the egg and prevent the
introduction of microbes. In the United
States eggs are generally distributed
quickly and oiling is not necessary. Oiling
is more important in warmer areas where
there is a risk of inadequate refrigeration
(Hutchison et al., 2003).
Storage and distribution
After processing, eggs should be stored
at 45 deg rees to prevent microbia l
growth. Humidity should be kept at 70
to 85 percent. Clean eggs stored at these
conditions will keep for three months
(Damerow, 1995). In a standard refrigerator, where the humidity is lower, washed
eggs only keep for five weeks.
In large-scale commercial production,
eggs usually reach the packing plant only
a few days after hens lay them (USDA
FSIS, 2007). Eggs packed under federal
regulations require the pack date to be
displayed on the carton. It is a three-digit
Julian date that represents the consecutive
day of the year. The carton is also dated
with the sell-by or expiration date (Exp.),
depending on the state. Eggs with a federal grade must be sold within 30 days
from day of pack (USDAD FSIS, 2007a).
The USDA recommends that consumers
buy eggs before the expiration date and
use them within 3 to 5 weeks. In June
2006, a USDA Agricultural Marketing
Service (USDA AMS) rule prohibited the
repackaging of eggs previously shipped
for retail sale that were packed under its
grading program.
Page 9
Small specialty producers should sell
their eggs within seven days of lay so
that the eggs are as fresh or fresher than
conventional eggs.
Site facility
The handling area should generally be
clean and free of insects, vermin and
other possible contaminants. Some states
may require screened windows; rodentproof doors; washable walls and fl oors
with all joints caulked; potable water;
sanitary drainage; and no pets in the
building (Plamondon, 2000).
Oregon egg producer Robert Plamondon
describes his egg washing area:
n the United
States about 30
percent of eggs
are consumed in the
form of egg products such as broken
whole eggs, yolks
and whites.
Our egg-washing is done in our garage
(which we don’t use for vehicles). Just
about any garage that a lready has a
concrete fl oor, water, a drain going to the
septic system, and adequate electrical
power could be converted pretty cheaply.
Basically, the food-safety inspectors want to
see an installation that appears to be built
to code and is appropriate for proper foodhandling, which mostly revolves around
keeping bugs and rodents out, being
easy to clean, having enough sinks, and
having potable water so you’re taking
bacteria away when you wash, not adding
them (Plamondon, 2000).
Egg products
Small-scale producers usually sell only
shell eggs, not processed eggs. However,
in the United States about 30 percent of
eggs are consumed in the form of egg
products such as broken whole eggs, yolks
and whites. After breaking, egg products are sold as liquid, dried and frozen
products. Yolks are salted or sugared if
frozen to prevent forming a rubbery gel
upon thawing. In large-scale processing,
egg products are pasteurized after breaking to kill microbes. The USDA Food
Safety and Inspection Service (USDA
FSIS) inspects these operations. Egg products are used in food manufacturing. For
more information, see the USDA FSIS Egg
Products and Food Safety Fact Sheets,
available at _
Page 10
Government regulations
and grading
A producer with a f lock of fewer than
3,000 hens is exempt from complying
with the Egg Products Inspection Act.
The Egg Products Inspection Act was
passed in 1970 to insure egg products are
safe for human consumption. In 1972,
quarterly on-site inspections of all shell
egg processors became required. This
Shell Egg Surveillance program ensures
that shell eggs are as good or better than
grade B. For more information, see 7
CFR, Part 57 of the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs at www.ams.
The USDA AMS has a voluntary egg grading service for shell eggs that is paid for
by plants. The Regulations Governing
the Inspection of Eggs 7 CFR, Part 56
describes how eggs should be processed
under the voluntary grading program.
dDocName=STELDEV3004690 for more
information. Under this service, USDA
graders continuously monitor the grading and packing of eggs to ensure that
the eggs meet quality and size standards.
In addition, plant processing equipment, facilities, sanitation and operating
procedures are verified according to
regulation requirements. By meeting
these requirements, eggs packed at offi cial plants are eligible to carry the USDA
grade shield. The Egg Grading Manual
is an excellent resource and is available
online at
With more emphasis on Hazard Analysis
and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and
high quality, the Plant Sanitation and
Good Manufacturing Practices Program
(PSGMP) is also available under voluntary grading.
Although small-scale egg producers
do not have to comply with federal programs, they need to follow state egg laws.
Although states have exemptions for small
producers, some states are quite rigorous
Small-Scale Egg Handling
in terms of washing, candling and temperature requirements during storage
and sale. Many eggs are sold ungraded at
farmers’ markets.
• Facility pest management that
prevents contamination.
Organic egg handling
• Proper recordkeeping and audit
control procedures that ensure
traceability of the product and
proper use of the organic seal.
In order to be certified organic, the eggs
must be handled or processed under
requirements of the National Organic
Program (NOP) and the processing facility must be certified organic. Organic
handling requirements are covered in
CFR § 205.270 to 205.272 of the NOP.
In general, organic processing requires:
• The use of organic ingredients
or ingredients allowed by the
National List.
• Management that prevents contamination with prohibited substances.
• Management that prevents commingling with nonorganic products.
(Kuepper et al., 2009)
Proper handling is a critical part of
any egg business despite the size of
the operation. Proper handling ensures
q ua l it y a nd sa fet y for con sumer s
and compliance with state and federal
regulations. The information given in
this publication provides viable options
for small and medium sized egg producers in executing proper handling within
their own production system.
Bigbee, D. E. and G. W. Froning. 1997. Egg Cleaning
Procedure for the Household Flock. NebGuide. G79466-A. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension,
Lincoln, NE.
Damerow, Gail. 1995. A Guide to Raising Chickens.
Storey Communications, Inc., Pownal, VT. 341 p.
Davis, Jim. 2005. Re: Kenmore Egg Washer Test.
E-mail posting to PasturePoultry listserve, Sept.
13, 2005.
Entani E., M. Asai, S. Tsujihata, Y. Tsukamoto and
M. Ohta. 1998. Antibacterial action of vinegar against
food-borne pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia
coli O157:H7. Journal of Food Protection. Vol. 61 (8)
Geiger, G., W. Russell and H. Enos. 1995.
Management: The Family Egg Supply. No. 2.510.
Colorado State Extension. 3 p.
Guebert, M. 2007. “Re: Egg washing machine.”
Online Posting, 9 March 2007. Yahoo Pasture Poultry
Hutchison, M. L., J. Gittins, A. Walker, A. Moore, C.
Burton and N. Sparks. 2003. Washing table eggs: A
review of scientific and engineering issues. World’s
Poultry Science Association. 59:233-248.
Kuepper, George, Holly Born, and Anne Fanatico.
2009. Farm Made: A Guide to On-Farm Processing
for Organic Producers. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma. 44 p.
McGlynn, William. Guidelines for the Use of Chlorine
Bleach as a Sanitizer in Food Processing Operations.
Food Technology Fact Sheet. Oklahoma State University.
Musgrove, M., S. Trabue, J. Shaw, D. Jones. 2008.
Efficacy of Post-Washing Shell Egg Sanitizers. Poultry
Science Association Meeting Abstract. P.42
Parkhurst, Carmen and Georg Mountney. 1988.
Poultry Meat and Egg Production. Van Nostrand
Reinhold Co., New York.
Page 11
Plamondon, Robert. 2000. “Egg washers, candling,
&c.” Online Posting, 23 Dec. 2000. Yahooo Pasture
Poultry Listserver.
Plamondon, Robert. 2001. “Re: Washing Eggs.”
Online Posting, 23 May 2001. Yahoo Pasture
Poultry Listserver.
Plamondon, Robert. 2003. “Re: Immersion Egg
Washers (Also, USDA Egg Regulations).” Online
Posting, 7 Feb. 2003. Yahoo Pasture Poultry
USDA. 1990. Egg-Grading Manual. Agriculture
Handbook No. 75. USDA Agricultural Marketing
Service, Washington, DC. 36 p.
USDA FSIS. 2007. Inspection of Eggs and Egg
Products. Code of Federal Regulations. 9 CFR
USDA FSIS. 2007a. Shell Eggs from Farm to Table
Fact Sheet. Accessed June 2009.
USDAD FSIS. 2007b. Food Product Dating Fact
Sheet. Accessed June 2009.
USDA FSIS. 2008. Guidance for Shell Egg Cleaners
and Sanitizers. Accessed June 2009. www.fsis.usda.
Zeidler, G. 2002. Processing and Packaging Shell
Eggs. p. 1107-1129. In: D.D. Bell and W.D. Weaver
(eds.). Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production
5th ed. Springer Publishers, New York, NY.
Further resources
Approved Substances
Code of Federal Regulations. 2009. Title 21, Chapter
1, Parts 172-186. Accessed June 2009. www.access.
Lists substances which comply with major FDA guidelines for shell egg cleaners and sanitizers; those which
are approved as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)
for use in food, and regulated as food additives. List is
updated annually.
Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)
Box 11558
Page 12
Eugene, OR 97440
541-343-8971 FAX
Voluntary review and listing service for products used
in organic production and processing as
certified under the USDA National Organic
Program. Approved products are listed annually in
the directory, OMRI Products List. Hard copy of the
OMRI Product List is available through paid subscription, and the online version can be viewed at no
Equipment Suppliers
IPS-CareFree Enzymes, Inc.
PO Box 190
Kansasville, WI 53139
262-878-0997 FAX
Offers enzymatic products for a variety of areas
including poultry. Their natural poultry product line
includes Poultry Protector, Waterer Protector, Odor
Digester, and egg washing products Egg Washer Pro
and Foam Blocker. A list of retailers carrying IPSCareFree Enzymes, Inc. products can be found on
their Web site or by contacting them through email
or by phone.
Incredible Egg Washer Co.
P.O. Box 302
Manchaug, MA 01526-0302
888-852-5340 (toll-free)
877-455-4647 FAX
Offers the Incredible Egg Washer, replacement parts,
and Egg Wash Powder. The washer safely uses air to
gently clean the eggs.
Kuhl Corporation
P.O. Box 26
Flemington, NJ 08822-0026
908-782-2751 FAX
Offers egg washing equipment and a variety of
poultry production equipment. Egg washer options
include low capacity immersion washers KF-200,
KF-400 (max. capacity: 8 cases/hr) and spray/
Small-Scale Egg Handling
sanitizer washer EBEW 1-5 (max. capacity: 5 cases/
hr). Detergents, sanitizers, preserving oils, and nest
boxes are also available. Offer product catalogs
upon request.
Lee Valley Tools, Ltd.
P.O. Box 1780
Ogdensburg, NY 13669-6780
800-267-8735 (toll-free)
800-513-7885 FAX
Offers a variety of woodworking and gardening
tools. They offer the World’s Kindest Nail Brush
which some small egg producers find helpful in their
manual egg washing system.
P.O. Box 901
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0901
800- 558-9595 (toll-free)
920-563-8296 FAX
Large supplier of farm and ranch equipment with a
large line of poultry equipment. Egg supplies include
nest boxes, baskets, cartons, flats, cases, candlers,
scale, washer, wash powder, brushes. Product
catalogs are available upon request.
National Poultry Equipment Co.
3290 Lancer Ave.
Osage, Iowa 50461
641-732-1470 FAX
Manufacturer of egg processing equipment for small
to medium sized egg producers. Web site shows their
Sani-Touch washers, has a forum for those who may
be looking to buy or sell used equipment, features
videos about how to use the equipment and more.
Rochester Hatchery
9420 109 Street
Westlock, Alberta T7P 2R4, Canada
Offers many varieties of poultry chicks and
poultry equipment. Egg supplies include nest boxes,
detergent, brushes, candlers, scales, cartons, boxes.
Catalogs can be requested through email or can be
downloaded from their Web site.
Page 13
Page 14
Small-Scale Egg Handling
Page 15
Small-Scale Egg Handling
By Anne Fanatico, Ph.D., and Betsy Conner
NCAT Poultry Specialists
© 2009 NCAT
Holly Michels, Editor
Amy Smith, Production
This publication is available on the Web at:
Slot 346
Version 092109
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