Location: Egg Safety and Quality
Title: What’s in Your Processing Environment? Author
Submitted to: Midwest Poultry Federation Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 4, 2007
Publication Date: March 13, 2007
Citation: Jones, D.R. 2007. What’s in your processing environment?. 2007 Midwest Poultry Federation Proceedings. p. 139-144. Technical Abstract: According to estimated production values, 3.9 billion shell eggs were packaged for US retail in 2005 (American Egg Board, 2007). This was 60.4% of the total US egg production. These eggs are processed in one of three types of facilities: in-line, off-line or mixed operations. In-line processing facilities are becoming more common in the industry because they allow for the ease of having the laying hens on site. This removes the burden of transporting eggs to the processing facility and maintaining a nest run egg cooler. Furthermore, eggs are generally processed within 24 h of lay preventing the need for on-farm refrigeration. There is extensive belting required for in-line complexes to deliver the eggs to the processing line. Feed, dirt/dust, feathers and broken eggs also travel on the belts and frequently enter the processing facility, falling below the egg line when there is a change in belts. Eggs from all flocks in the facility are generally combined on the collection belts and enter the processing facility together. Off-line operations require eggs to be transported to the processing facility from remote farms. Eggs are generally transported on nest run egg carts or, occasionally, on pallets. These facilities must also maintain nest run egg coolers to store the eggs before processing. The nest run eggs must also move through the processing facility to the loader (located on the processing line). Off-line processing allows for batch processing of eggs from a single flock. This segregation can allow for targeted processing of eggs in order to meet customer quality needs. Mixed operations are in-line facilities which also have the capability of processing nest run eggs. This is generally utilized to meet customer orders in excess of facility laying capabilities and also for the processing of specialty eggs. There can be drastic differences in structure and condition of egg processing facilities. Newer processing facilities often include environmental control, sealed surfaces and planned product flow. Older facilities can still be very effective in producing wholesome eggs of high microbiological quality, but are frequently more simplistic in their appearance. In summer, many of these facilities utilize cross-breeze and forced air to cool the processing environment. Many have low levels of building insulation. Furthermore, building surfaces are often worn with age and present challenges for facility cleaning and sanitation. In a survey of shell egg processors conducted in 2003, half of the responses reported utilizing processing lines which were 5 – 15 years old (Jones and Northcutt, 2005). As shell egg processing lines become worn they are often replaced with newer models. At this time, the line could be expanded to meet customer demand. Often, the new processing line is larger or in a slightly different configuration which can be cumbersome to retro-fit into an existing facility and can result in alteration of dry good storage and product flow in the facility. Even the most effective production process can become contaminated from environmental sources. Understanding the microbiological status of a processing facility can aid in the development of more effective cleaning and sanitation programs. Furthermore, addressing the issues/factors contributing to equipment and facility microbial contamination allows for a more targeted approach in cleaning plan development. In our laboratories, we have conducted several studies focused on shell egg plant sanitation assessment. During this presentation, an overview of these results will be presented to assist participants in assessing their own cleaning and sanitation programs.