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Food Safety: Down on the Egg Farm

Like all protein-rich foods, eggs are a perishable food.

Alberta's egg producers take their job of producing safe, wholesome food very seriously. Bacteria are found everywhere in our environment - in soil, water, animals, and insects - so they cannot realistically eliminate all bacteria (nor do they want to, as some bacteria are good), but producers can and do take actions to control the growth of harmful bacteria.

Bacteria need food, moisture and, above all, ideal temperature conditions to multiply. Below 4° C and above 60° C, there is little or no growth. The secret to preventing bacteria from multiplying is to control these factors.

Alberta egg producers folllow the Start Clean -- Stay Clean™ program. It is a Canadian egg producers' program aimed at eliminating opportunities for harmful bacteria growth on the farm. It includes standards and procedures for such things as:

  • buying of hens, feed and supplements from suppliers with disease prevention programs in place;
  • setting up restricted zones -- generally the laying house, the egg collection room and the cooler where personnel movement is kept to a minimum and special clothing and cleaning procedures are established (this is known as biosecurity). Necessary strict biosecurity to keep eggs safe and wholesome, as well as birds healthy, is why producers can't "open the barn doors" to public tours. The risk is too great!
  • pressure washing and sanitizing walls, ceilings, rafters, fans, heaters, cages, drinkers, and feeders;
  • removing manure regularly;
  • monitoring and maintaining proper ventilation, air temperature and moisture levels;
  • frequent egg collection and quick removal of dirty, cracked or broken eggs;
  • storing collected eggs in a cooler room kept at the right temperature;
  • monitoring bird health by recording feed and water intake, rate of lay, egg quality, bird behaviour and appearance.

As well, egg farms are regularly visited by field inspectors as an additional "check" to ensure proper on-farm food safety practices are in place.