The Journey of the Incredible Edible Egg
We buy them as egg sandwiches, omelet’s, frittatas, quiche, and souffles. We use them as ingredients that are in baked goods such as cakes and cookies. We might scramble them or make a toad in the hole, a manhole cover or an octopus. These are examples of some fun breakfast items to make for the kids, visit us at thechefscookingschool.com/recipes, or watch us on YouTube for videos, follow us on Facebook.
We go to the store and pick up a dozen or 18 depending on our usage. We bring them home and pop them in the fridge and eat them for breakfast or bake them in cookies or baked goods. Most of us have grown up not even understanding what is behind the foods that we eat and how they get to our homes.
The Egg Story
The reality of how you got your eggs is a story.
I was fortunate to run into a farmer named Jim Bowman, he agreed to show me his farm and talk to my son and I about raising poultry from hatchlings. They are called growers. Here Mr. Bowman raises laying hens. He will grow them until they are ready to lay eggs at which time they will be delivered to the laying house. This time frame is about 16 weeks from when they are recieved in boxes as hatchlings.
The journey begins when the egg is hatched.
Our country produces approximately 113 Billion eggs per year. That raises the age old debate which came first the chicken or the egg. I have the answer, God knows. I don’t really care much of the debate they are both delicious.
If we know that 113 billion eggs per year are produced in the USA we can further break this down a bit and reveal what this number truly represents.
9.13 Billion Eggs are part of this 113 Billion in a month, April 2020. Of those 7.93 Billion of them were for table eggs. Table eggs are defined as being for consumption through our grocery stores and commercial kitchens across the USA. 1.2 Billion of those eggs were for hatching. This number can be further broken down to 1.12 billion for meat birds, and 86 million for laying hens.
Those laying hens are busy, 86 million laying hens (minus mortality) are responsible for 2 billion eggs produced in a month. Wow that is some serious eggs. The expectation for a laying hen is for 10 hens to produce about 8 eggs per day.
This gives you a bit of the volume of the breakdown of US egg production. China produces a staggering 662 billion eggs per year.
Well enough numbers. Lets dive into the life and times of a laying hen from birth to eggs and beyone.
There are what are called hatcheries all over the US. These hatcheries have the sole purpose of hatching eggs to make up the meat birds, and egg consumption in our country. The eggs come from laying houses where the specifications are meant to favor eggs for hatching.
The eggs come in and are set up on shelves in the hatchery where they are set to 99.5 degrees and 40 – 50% humidity. As you saw in the video they are handled as though mom was caring for them. It takes about 21 days for an egg to hatch. Once they are hatched they will be transported to a grower.
A hatchery might be in North Carolina and sent to a grower in Ohio or Pennslyvania or any number of growers across the country. Here at the growers they will be removed from the crates and kept under heat lamps to maintain the needed temperature for them.
They will have water available as a bead dispensed from a nipple. These dispensers are adjusted in height as the birds grow so they reach up and extend their necks to drink. Each nipple dispenses a personalized drip of water to avoid sickness through cross contamination.
The picture to the right displays a red dispenser that distributes a drip of water from a nipple. When the hatchlings are little this is lowered to a height that they need to stretch their necks to recieve it. As they grow the dispenser is raised to the height that allows their necks to stretch.
The height of the nipple allows for maximum consumption of the water resulting in less water hitting the floor, which can encourage unwanted bacteria growth and less wasted resources.
Their food is delivered into silos that dispense through augers throughout the houses. I visited a grower near Myerstown and these barns or houses held about 13,000 chickens on each floor. Each barn has 2 floors and hold the chickens for about 16 weeks until they are ready for laying eggs.
There are many breads of chickens and the color of the egg you consume is literally determined by the color of the bird. A brown bird will produce a brown egg and a white chicken will produce a white egg.
There are management companies that actually manage the whole process. They coordinate the batches of hatchlings and the homes that they will go to for growing. They coordinate the feed they will be fed. The feed is determined by the owners of the birds who will have a partcular feed for them. One that might be organic, feed for meat birds or a personal feed that they might make themselves.
Risser's is a company that offers management support for poultry farms, there are a number of these management companies.
Risser’s Poultry offers poultry production management for independent producers.
Our Certified Poultry Service Technicians can effectively manage your overall flock’s health to ensure the highest quality and safety of your chickens. We are experts in poultry production management and can assist you in solving any problems that might arise with your birds.
Our poultry management services include:
- Weekly farm visits to monitor conditions and health – including environment, ventilation, food, and water
- Analyzing flock data including feed conversions and body weights
- Conduct state and/or federal testing
- Regulate safety precautions for disease prevention
- Vaccination monitoring
In this process the the management company, Rissers for example, will come inspect the farm and conditions. Evaluate the birds for growth and report on how they are comparing to standards and expectations.
A meat bird will get to up to 6 lbs. in 4 – 6 weeks, and then will be transported to the slaughter piece of their journey. A laying hen will get to about 3.5 lbs in 16 weeks and then be transported to a laying house where they will spend about a year laying eggs before going to a Campbells soup plant, or something similar.
As any industry minimizing waste is important. Once the birds are packed up for transport to the laying houses the growing houses will be cleaned and sanitized as readiment for the next batch of birds. The waste will be sold to mushroom farmers likely, then fresh shavings put down on the floor. Water lines cleaned and feeding augers attended to.