Second-quality eggs are probably caused by cracking on the farm, rather than during transport or grading at the packers, a new study has said.
Interim figures from the report, released by the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (Bfrepa), have suggested preventing cracks on-farm is the most effective way to reduce seconds.
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Four farms were selected by consultant Adas, which conducted the study, chosen for a “typical” layout and their geography. Two of the four had relatively young hens, and two housed older birds.
On three of the four farms, there was clear evidence of cracking along the mechanical egg collection systems, despite the young age of two flocks.
Samples were taken at three points: on cross-conveyors, after being placed on trays and at the packing centre.
There was little difference in the level of cracks between rejected hand-candled eggs, taken on-farm, and overall seconds at the packing centre.
One distinction between farms was the maintenance of farm equipment – with regular maintenance seeming to cut seconds.
Further farm visits will feed into a final report, which will be published in the autumn.
Robert Gooch, policy director at Bfrepa, said the study was part of the organisation’s new sustainability programme, with sponsorship drawn from a wide range of companies involved in the egg industry.
“We want to work with packers to solve common problems,” he said. “This was one of the first projects we identified – a small change in the percentage of seconds can have a big impact on profitability.”