Modern consumers demand high quality eggs. As a result, packing stations must supply such eggs to the retail outlets. Eggs of a lesser quality such as undergrads and cracks, can easily be processed into liquid products at the packing station.
By Fabio Gualtieri, Pelbo SPA, Italy
To break or not to break eggs? This is the question many packing stations face when dealing with rejected eggs from the sorting operation, especially when the egg market is down. Furthermore, the volatility of prices of these eggs and the limited market outlets for them makes this matter complicated to deal with.
The fragile nature of the eggs generates sanitation issues in the equipment that is used to handle them. Also there is an increased risk of cross contamination. And eggs broken during tray and pallet handling turn into potential sources of food for vermin and insects. Moreover, broken eggs generate “stuck eggs” and promote mould which translates to losses for the processing plant. This plant eventually complains and demands a better price, or a discount or returns the eggs to the packaging station.
Yield losses during storage, transport to the breaking plant and loading to breaking equipment have been estimated between 4% and 7%. When combining this loss with the down-time generated at the breaking plant, packaging material waste, and the environmental impact due to additional cleaning compounds and water, it can reach staggering numbers.
But, how else to handle these eggs? Most packing stations do not produce enough seconds to justify investing in a large, complex egg breaking and processing plant. But here’s where new alternatives are now available for packing stations to not only break these eggs in a sanitary matter, but to produce a wide variety of high-value egg products.
Completely integrated solutions incorporating all the steps necessary to produce high-quality egg products are pre-assembled into stainless steel frames, ready to operate within a few days after arrival at the plant.
Packing stations can install these systems in a small room adjacent to the grading operation, with a belt or conveyor directly from the grading machine to the egg breaker. The egg breaker receives and breaks the eggs and the egg product immediately enters a blending tank to create a homogeneous mix. From the tank, the products are filtered and immediately pasteurised and packaged. The amount of time that it takes an egg from the time it is broken to being pasteurised and packaged is less than 20 minutes.
The liquid egg products can be packaged into a wide range of packing materials such as bag-in-box, bottles, pallecon boxes, pails or for a bit more money, gable-top type packages. Because the eggs are fresh and go through minimum handling, the system allows for production of high-value extended shelf life egg products, or minimally treated liquid products that can be sold to other processing operations.
This may even allow packing stations to divert eggs seasonally to the breaking operation as the egg market fluctuates, as well as to divert difficult to grade eggs such as eggs from old hens. The systems are completely integrated which means that not only the processing equipment is included, but that all support equipment (heating/cooling), cleaning equipment and controls for a quick, easy and flawless installation.
Return on investment
How can a packing station benefit from installing such systems? There’s a wide range of measures that have a direct impact on the bottom line as well as other indirect benefits. To calculate the return on investment plants can easily evaluate the cost to pack, handle, store and deliver such eggs along with the additional revenue generated by selling egg products instead of seconds.
Variables are the price of seconds, the price of bulk pasteurised liquid whole eggs, the price of specialty extended shelf life egg products and the quantity of eggs to be processed.
For this example, we will consider the following prices:
A) Average price of seconds: €0,45/kg
B) Average price of industry eggs: €0,60/kg
C) Average price of pasteurised whole eggs: €1,00
D) Average price of ESL Bio whole eggs: €1,50
To calculate the amount of eggs to be processed, we will do this in terms of the size of the packing station, in this case 118,800 eggs per hour, with an average production of seconds of 4%.SBlt Total production of seconds per 8–hour shift: 38,016 eggsSBlt Estimated weight of seconds: 2.281 kgSBltValue of eggs produced: €1,026.00
For the evaluation, we will consider two scenarios: shipping the eggs to the processing plant and processing the eggs at the packing station.
Calculations for two scenarios
The industry average for losses during transport fluctuates between 4 and 7%, so we’ll consider an average of 5.5% loss. This means that the processing plant will need 5.5% more eggs to produce 1 kg of egg product. Assuming that an average plant will recover 82% liquid from seconds, the average cost of eggs to produce 1 kg of average-quality liquid is €0,58.
In comparison, processing the eggs on site directly from the grading machine represents a liquid recovery of 85% and without the loss from transport. This means that the cost of eggs to produce 1 kg of high-quality liquid for the packing station is €0,53.Independent of the operating cost, the packing station already has a €0,05/kg advantage over the breaking plant, and when considering a selling price of €1,00 per kg of pasteurised whole egg, in annual terms represents a gross margin of €236,000.Furthermore, taking into account that the amount of direct and indirect costs of running an integrated system compared to a complex breaking plant will be much lower, the price advantage compared to a standard egg breaking plant could be easily doubled from €0,05 to €0,10 per kg.
As we’ve seen over the past couple of decades, the egg products market continues to take away market share from the egg in the shell market. Investing in an integrated system would allow the packing station to retain their customers by offering them fresh, high-quality liquid or frozen egg products. The eggs will be handled daily and directly from the grader, eliminating labour, materials and storage area for seconds. Liquid and frozen egg products occupy approximately half the space of the in shell equivalent. Liquid products can be packaged in insulated pallecons or large insulated bag-in-box style totes, eliminating the need for refrigerated storage. So, next time the question arises, know that egg breaking and processing is a viable alternative.