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Making the Grade
 
Once the eggs reach the grading station, the second part of their journey begins. Here they will be cleaned, candled, graded, sorted, packaged into cartons and shipped to stores or commercial facilities.
 
The first stop is a temperature controlled storage room. Here the optimum temperature and humidity maintains the freshness and quality of the eggs until it's their turn for grading. Most eggs are graded within 24 hours of arriving at the station.
 
The grading process begins with flats of eggs being lifted onto an assembly line. Metal arms with suction cups gently lift the eggs from the flats onto a moving track. The eggs are then washed and sanitized in a high speed tunnel washer that gently scrubs the eggs. After washing, a thin film of odourless mineral oil may be applied to help seal the porous shell. From here the eggs are examined using a process called candling.
 
During candling, the egg passes over a strong light. The light makes the interior of the egg visible and the exterior of the egg more visible. This allows the grader to see the condition of the egg inside and out.
 
There are three possible grades for eggs - A, B or C. Agriculture and Agri-food Canada sets the regulations and standards for grading. Only the best make Canada Grade A. Any eggs that do not meet grade A standards are marked by the grader and removed from the production line by an electronic sensor.
 
To qualify as Canada Grade A, the egg must have a clean, sound shell, a thick white, a well centered yolk (a sign that the white is thick, as it holds the yolk in position), and a very small air cell. Only grade A eggs are sized.
 
Eggs are sized by weight. There is a weight range for each size. The most popular sizes are:
 
  • peewee -- under 42 g
  • small -- 42 g - 49 g
  • medium -- 49 g - 56 g
  • large -- 56 g - 63 g
  • extra large -- 63 g - 70 g
  • jumbo -- over 70 g
Each egg is weighed electronically, separated by size and directed to a cartoning station.
 
 
 
All cartons are recyclable and may be made of either plastic, foam or fibre. Every carton is stamped to indicate the Best Before Date. The Best Before Date lets you know how long the eggs will maintain their grade A quality – usually 35 days after grading.
 
After packaging, fresh eggs are again stored under refrigeration until they are sent to stores and restaurants. Eggs you buy at the store often arrive there within four days of being laid. Freshness is synonymous with Canada Grade A.
 
Before they are shipped, federal inspectors take random samples of the cartoned eggs for individual testing. Samples are candled, then temperature and size are measured, all to make sure they meet grade A specifications. Inspectors also break eggs and measure the relationship of egg weight and white (albumen) height. It is measured in Haugh Units (H.U.). The higher the Haugh Unit, the better the white (albumen) quality of the egg.
 
Quality control inspectors also monitor ungraded eggs, at the grading station, to assess the production quality of specific flocks. Once approved, the graded eggs are shipped to supermarkets in cartons, and to restaurants and institutions in flats of 30.
 

What Happens To
All Those Eggs?

Every year in Canada, hens produce nearly 6 billion eggs. Of these, 82% are sold in their shell.
 
The remaining 18% (of all grades and sizes) are sent to egg processing plants where they are processed into liquid, frozen or dried form. Special machines break eggs by the thousands and can separate yolks from whites. Whole or separated, the eggs are then pasteurised and sent in bulk form to bakeries and other customers of processed products.
 
These processed eggs are used in the manufacturing of many foods, including mayonnaise, noodles and baked goods. Processed eggs are also used to make other items such as pharmaceuticals, shampoo, pet foods and adhesives.
 

Farm Fresh Eggs in Calgary


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