From Coop to Customer: Mastering Egg Handling and Delivery

May 20, 2024

Running an ethical egg farm is rewarding, but getting your eggs to happy customers requires careful handling. HealthyFarm's guide outlines a 9-step process for ensuring fresh, safe delivery. From frequent collection and gentle cleaning to proper storage and transportation, each step focuses on maintaining egg quality. Key takeaways include using clean containers, maintaining cool temperatures, and minimizing movement during transport. Following these practices allows ethical egg producers to deliver a delicious product while upholding their commitment to responsible farming.

Running a small, ethical egg farm is rewarding, but getting those delicious eggs from your happy hens to happy customers requires careful handling and professional delivery. We understand that navigating this process can be tricky, especially for those focused on humane and sustainable practices, HealthyFarm has developed a helpful Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to guide you. This SOP breaks down the egg journey into 9 key steps, ensuring your eggs arrive fresh, safe, and ready to crack open.

Step 1: Egg collecting

Start your day off right by collecting eggs frequently, ideally at least once daily. This minimizes the chance of dirty and broken eggs, especially during hot or cold weather extremes. Invest in clean, easy-to-maintain containers like coated wire baskets or plastic egg flats. Avoid overstacking – aim for five layers for baskets and six flats for plastic. Maintaining a consistent temperature in the coop helps prevent "sweating," where condensation forms on the shell and promotes bacterial growth. As you collect, separate any misshapen, cracked, or dirty eggs for proper cleaning later.

Photo: Hand collection at Mr. Diep’s farm, a HealthyFarm partner

Step 2: Cleaning

For slightly soiled eggs: Use a gentle brushing with an egg brush or a light sanding motion with a paper towel or plastic scourer. Remember, be gentle! For tougher stains, dampen a clean cloth slightly, wipe the egg clean, and then immediately dry it thoroughly with another clean, dry cloth.

Photo: Dry cleaning with a hand cloth at Mr. Diep’s farm.

Keep your eggs dry: Moisture is the enemy of fresh eggs, as it creates a breeding ground for microbes. Ensure your eggs are completely dry before packing and storing them. Simply allow them to air dry in a well-ventilated space, use a fan on a low setting, or wipe them with a clean, dry cloth.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light for a Chemical-Free Approach: If you're looking for a chemical-free alternative, UV light offers a fantastic option. UV light penetrates the shell, effectively destroying bacteria and viruses. However, some important points to consider include:

Step 3: Candling (Optional)

Candling involves shining a bright light through the egg in a dark room to see the internal quality without breaking the shell. This step isn't mandatory for everyone, but it can be a valuable tool for ensuring consistent quality, especially for larger producers. Look for specific criteria outlined in your national standards, such as clean shells, a properly positioned air cell (ideally small and stationary), and a centrally located yolk free of blemishes.

Step 4: Grading

Sorting your eggs by size, weight, shape, and internal and external quality is the process of grading. This step helps determine their price and marketability. Grading should happen on the day of collection to prevent microbial growth, especially on cracked or dirty eggs. National and regional standards often define specific size categories (e.g., jumbo, large, medium) based on weight.

Photo: Mr. Diep hand sorts eggs into holders for consistent weight and shape

Step 5: Packaging

Ideally, eggs should be packed within 24 hours of laying, but no later than 3-7 days. Use clean, dry, and undamaged packaging that protects from odors and deterioration. Consider these options:

Filler Trays (Wholesale): These hold 30-36 eggs and are stackable for easy transport. Choose from wood pulp, cardboard (be mindful of stacking weight), or reusable, washable plastic. Opt for transparent plastic if you want customers to see the eggs without handling them.

Egg Cases (Retail): These smaller packs hold 6-12 eggs and are ideal for supermarkets.  Materials include paperboard, molded wood pulp, or plastic.

Photo: Mr. Diep packages trays of eggs for wholesale.

Step 6: Labeling

Transparency is critical! Provide crucial information for buyers and consumers, including your producer name, egg type (e.g., free-range, organic), collection date, expiration date, and storage instructions. Clear and accurate labeling allows consumers to make informed choices and ensures proper handling at home.

Photo: Mr. Diep’s egg labeling with clear instructions and information

Step 7: Storage

Temperature and humidity are key! Store eggs in a clean, dry, odor-free environment with consistent temperature (40-55°F) and good air circulation (70-80% humidity). Avoid strong odors and clean regularly with odorless sanitizers. Refrigeration isn't always necessary for farm-fresh eggs stored this way, but if chosen, store them on a shelf inside the fridge, not the door.

Step 8: Transportation

Safe transport equals happy customers! Here's how to get your eggs there without a crack:

Photo: Mr. Diep loads his eggs onto a delivery truck

Following these storage and transport best practices ensures your ethical egg journey continues, delivering a fresh, delicious product to happy customers.

Read the full SOP here!