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Hens lay eggs every day, and those eggs are collected daily on the farm. They’re packed into flats either by hand, or with egg packing equipment, and stored in the cooling room until the refrigerated grading station struck arrives to pick them up.
Some farms are also Producer-Graders. These farms are federally-licensed to grade and market their own eggs. All other farms have their eggs graded at a federally-licensed grading station.
Once the eggs are picked up by refrigerated truck, they are shipped to one of local grading stations around the province. At the grading station, the eggs are cleaned and inspected. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) sets operating and food safety regulations for all graders, both on-farm and at grading stations. They also set the standards for grading and sizing eggs, establish standards for the three categories of egg grades, and conduct inspections to ensure that these standards are met.
The first step of the grading process is to wash and sanitize the eggs by passing them through a high speed tunnel washer. The eggs then undergo a process called “candling” where they are passed over a strong light to make the interior of the egg visible so they can be inspected for any cracks or imperfections. The grader determines the grade of the eggs by checking the condition of the shell, the size of the air cell in the egg, and whether the yolk is well centered.
Once the eggs have been inspected, they are packed into cartons, ready for distribution. Eggs are sent to your grocery store as well as to other food retailers, restaurant supply companies and food service industries, hospitals and other institutions – all right from the grading station, in refrigerated trucks.
The entire journey of a BC egg, from farm to your table, is conducted to ensure the safety and quality of the eggs you eat. Typically, BC eggs arrive at the grocery store after this whole process within just a week of being laid! Now that’s fresh!
The eggs that aren’t sent to retailers aren’t wasted; many are sent to the egg breaking plant in Abbotsford to be made into liquid, frozen, or dried egg products. The eggs are cracked on a special machine that breaks eggs by the thousands, and if needed, egg yolks can be mechanically separated from the whites. Both whole and separated eggs are then pasteurized and sent in bulk to bakeries and restaurants. BC eggs are also used by manufacturing customers in pharmaceuticals or pet foods, or in non-food items such as shampoo, and adhesives.
The CIFA sets operating and food safety regulations for the breaking plants, just as they do for the grading stations, and have inspectors at the breaking plants to ensure these regulations are met.