It is estimated that 10–15% of eggs laid do not make it to the kitchen table!
There has been a lot of discussion these days about the qualities of the most marketable eggs. We have gone beyond fundamental safety and nutrition to a growing retail movement that seeks cage-free-produced eggs and value-added products
Yet, there is not enough emphasis regarding the most basic aspect of quality that matters to everyone: eggshell strength. Simply put, cracked eggs do not sell; without eggshell quality, no other egg characteristic matters.
Why eggs do not make it to the store shelf
The two main reasons that eggs do not make it to store shelves are:
- Egg loss: broken eggs that cannot be sold
- Downgrading: eggs that are given a lower score due to visible defects
These issues are nothing new but continue to be responsible for economic loss in the layer industry, and both are related to the quality of the eggshell.
The nutrition of the layer hen can significantly impact the quality of an egg. By changing a bird’s diet, everything from chick development to shell condition can be affected. For this post, we are going to focus on the effect minerals can have on shell strength, specifically in regard to the form those minerals are given in.
On the farm, up to 90% of total losses can come as a result of poor eggshell quality. Shell strength is essential for withstanding the sometimes turbulent shipping process or protecting developing chicks from the outside world. A strong shell makes all the difference in making sure eggs make it safely from the farm to your plate.
Even though eggshells are composed of 94% calcium carbonate and 1.4% magnesium carbonate, many new studies are now revealing the critical role of trace minerals in eggshell formation. A 2012 study from the Institute of Biodiversity, Glasgow, United Kingdom, found that strength is reduced by the inclusion of abnormal forms of minerals in the diet. Conversely, in bioplexed form, selenium, manganese, zinc, copper, and iron are absorbed more readily. These elements are essential nutrients to shell strength and are crucial to a number of enzymatic processes that lead to optimal shell formation.
Strengthening the shell
While downgrading can be traced back to several different factors, egg loss is directly associated with a weak eggshell.
One of the best ways to help ensure that the eggs produced have a strong shell is through the hen’s nutrition. If we can give her the right ingredients, then she will be able to provide a more durable egg.
Putting the eggshell to the test
In addition to focusing on nutrition, there are ways you can monitor the strength of the eggs being produced.
Recently, Alltech Ireland added a new tool to help producers quantify and better understand their eggshell strength. The Egg Force Reader measures the force it takes to fracture an eggshell.
Taking a sample of eggs allows the producer to get a good average eggshell performance. Using this data, as well as downgrade data, producers can identify if their eggs will be able to hold up in processing. Furthermore, this data can help to identify areas of improvement in nutrition regarding eggshell quality.
They say not to cry over spilt milk, but what about a broken egg?
Put your eggs to the test with the Egg Force Reader. Contact your local Alltech representative and schedule an appointment.