Egg Facts


The Hens

The most popular breed for egg production in Canada today is the White Leghorn - a small, light bird that lays far more eggs than its ancestors. Each stage of the hen's development cycle requires specialized care and attention. Chicks are hatched at hatcheries, raised in pullet barns for about 19 weeks and then transferred to the laying hen barn for their egg production life. At Island Eggs we grade eggs from both hen breeds: White Leghorn (white eggs) and  Rhode Island Red (brown eggs).

The average laying hen produces more than 320 eggs a year. Hens begin egg production at five to six months (19 weeks) of age and continue to lay for at least 12 months.

Eggs automatically roll out for collection and are gathered twice a day. They are then packed and refrigerated on the farm, ready for delivery to the grading station. By having different flocks of hens at different ages, egg producers have a steady supply of eggs to market and a stable year-round income.

Proper lighting, a well-balanced diet, fresh water and comfortable surroundings are essential for hen health and production. A hen's diet consists of grains, proteins, vitamins, minerals and plenty of fresh water.

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Making the Grade

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada regulations define three quality grades that apply to eggs for sale to customers. These are:

Only Grade A eggs are sized. They are sized according to the weight of each egg. Grade A small, medium, large and extra large. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada inspectors monitor graded eggs to make sure they pass rigid standards. Obviously this weight includes the shell. Nutrition information in Canada is based on the large egg without the shell or a 50g serving.

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Yolk Colour

Is determined by the diet of the hen and does not affect the nutritive value or quality of the egg. Hens fed a larger portion of wheat in relation to other components of the diet produce eggs with pale yolks. A diet containing a high proportion of yellow corn or alfalfa, for example, will result in eggs with much darker yolks. The choice of grains depends primarily on the availability of these crops.

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Shell Colour

May vary from white to brown, depending upon the breed of the hen. There is no difference in nutritive value between a brown shelled and a white shelled egg. Shell colour does not affect flavour or cooking performance of the egg.

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Egg White Colour

Sometimes an egg white may have a greenish colour due to the presence of riboflavin (Vitamin B12). Carbon Dioxide in a very fresh egg may cause the white to be cloudy. In both cases, the egg is perfectly safe for consumption, and cooking performance is not affected.

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Blood Spots

Blood or "meat" spots are occasionally found on an egg yolk. These tiny spots are not harmful and are caused by the rupture of a blood vessel during the formation of the egg. Mass candling methods reveal most blood spots and those eggs are removed, but even with electronic spotters it is impossible to catch all of them. If desired, the spot can be removed with the tip of a clean knife prior to cooking.

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Care, Quality and Safety

Island Eggs and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) work cooperatively at the producer, grader, restaurant and retail levels to ensure that our customers can have confidence in the safety and quality of eggs.

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To encourage and promote the production and marketing of high quality shell eggs, the regional Producer Boards maintain an egg quality program for producers prior to grading. In cooperation with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), ungraded eggs from registered flocks are inspected for interior and exterior quality factors. If flocks are found to have low quality, the eggs are directed to the processing market. Producers are educated to meet inspection standards for management and cleanliness. Testing programs at the farm monitor the barn environment to ensure standards are met. Island Eggs is responsible for grading and packaging the eggs that are produced only by farmers on the Island and other Canadian provinces. Island Eggs like all egg producers cooperates fully with the AAFC to ensure that the eggs produced in our laying barns are of the best quality.

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The trip from the hen to grading station to the retail shelf takes about 6-10 days. At the grading station, the eggs are washed and sanitized in a high-speed tunnel washer. Then, a thin film of odorless mineral oil is sometimes applied to help seal the porous shell and preserve freshness. Eggs are then candled by passing them over a strong light to remove any imperfect ones. Legislation ensures that all eggs sold in retail stores and restaurants must be graded at a station which conforms to rigorous federal standards. A Canadian Grade A egg must have a thick white and well-centered yolk, a very small air cell and a clean, sound shell.

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From the retail store to the table, the responsibility for maintaining egg wholesomeness is in the hands of consumers. Improper storage and handling of perishable food is the primary cause of food-borne illness. Controlling temperature is the key to preventing bacterial growth. To multiply, bacteria need food, moisture and above all, ideal temperature conditions. Below 4°C (40°F) and above 60°C (140°F) there is little or no growth. The secret to preventing bacteria from multiplying is to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. The spread of bacteria from one food to another (cross-contamination) is particularly dangerous because you are unaware of it. To avoid cross contamination, use clean utensils after each task. Never use the same utensils or equipment for raw foods and cooked foods unless they have been properly cleaned. Store raw and cooked foods separately. Click here for more information on Storage & Handling.

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Storage/Handling/Cooking Guidelines

Here are some brief guidelines to help you with the easy and safe storage and handling of eggs in your home.

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