I am a small egg producer. Can you give me advice on preparing my eggs for sale?
Answer: 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 can use low-tech methods to clean eggs, including dry cleaning, dipping and spraying, or pouring. You should also candle and grade the eggs to ensure high quality.Keeping eggs clean is important in alternative poultry production systems because eggs often become dirtier in free-range systems than in cages. There are several things you can do to minimize dust, mud, feces, feathers, etc. on your eggs. Placing straw, gravel, or similar materials at the entrance to the poultry house can clean feet and help eliminate dust and mud. Maintaining clean nesting material is also important. When eggs are broken in the nest, all of the other eggs can get dirty. You can avoid this by collecting eggs often or using a nest with a sloping floor. Also, preventing hens from sleeping in the nesting box will reduce breakage and feces on the eggs.You should collect eggs often?twice in the morning and once in the afternoon ? to help decrease the number of dirty and broken eggs and to start cooling eggs. 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. Keep egg temperature relatively constant until the eggs are washed to avoid sweating. Condensation on the surface of the egg facilitates the movement of microbes inside the shell due to moisture.Eggs are cleaned to remove debris and stains and reduce the microbial load. A slightly dirty egg can be brushed with an egg brush or rubbed with a sanding sponge and sandpaper. Misshapen, cracked, broken or extremely dirty eggs should always be separated out.There are many considerations for wet cleaning. To read more about them, as well as egg candling and grading, consult the ATTRA publication Small-Scale Egg Handling, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/viewhtml.php?id=325. For information on producing eggs in alternative and free-range poultry production systems, see ATTRA’s Alternative Poultry Production Systems and Outdoor Access, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=222.