Protect your Eggs from Breakage or the Yolk’s on You

Shot of chicken eggs in a carton on a table

With the average American consuming about 263 eggs in 2016 (according to calculations by the American Egg Board) there’s no question that eggs can be a revenue driver for your grocery retail or supply operation. But while you take all the federally mandated steps to ensure the supermarket eggs you ultimately sell to consumers are as safe as possible, are you doing everything you can to protect your bottom line with smart egg transportation and egg packaging?

The AEB says 7.36 billion eggs were produced in the U.S. during March 2016 — that’s a lot of protein-rich meals. That volume also ensures ample opportunity for shrink due to cracked shells and inconsistent handling during transportation from laying facilities to store aisles. The quality and safety of supermarket eggs can be compromised at virtually every stage of the process.

Laying out the rules

Federal law mandates shell eggs be refrigerated at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or colder within 36 hours of being laid. Refrigeration not only prevents spoilage, it inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. However, there are no clearly stated federal restrictions on how long a laying facility can store refrigerated eggs before moving them into the supply chain. Still, every day an egg sits in storage at the laying facility is a day that it’s not making the producer money. So from a business standpoint, it seems unlikely a smart laying facility would allow its eggs to hang around.

Producers typically package their eggs in foam or pulp cartons that may be labeled in a variety of ways intended to give supermarkets and consumers guidance on how long the eggs will remain usable. Federal law requires all packaged shell eggs be labeled with a notice stating they require refrigeration. Other types of labeling information are optional.

For example, according to the USDA, producers may choose to use USDA code dates, but they don’t have to. If they choose to use USDA code dates, then producers must follow the guidelines for how to use the dates. Expiration dates must be printed in a month/day format and must be within 30 days of when the supermarket eggs were packed into the carton. The date stamp should include either “EXP,” “sell by” or “not to be sold after.” Producers may also include dating information intended to help consumers understand how long the eggs will maintain their quality under ideal conditions, the USDA says. “Use by,” “use before” and “best before” dates should not exceed 45 days from the date the eggs were packed.

Federal law also requires eggs be transported in refrigerated trucks that are only used to transport food and nothing else. In transit, eggs must be kept at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

At the supermarket

Once supermarket eggs reach grocery stores, the USDA advises consumers to look for eggs labeled USDA Grade A or AA, that are presented in a refrigerated display and have clean, uncracked shells. And therein lies the greatest egg transportation and egg packing challenge for your grocery operation — delivering eggs that are free from cracks and that have been kept at the mandated temperature throughout transit.

Grocery operators that transport and display eggs in reusable plastic containers (RPCs) experience less shrink through cracking and crushing. RPCs with a one-step SmartWall™ design make moving eggs from truck to shelf a simpler, faster process. Less labor and less handling reduce the opportunity for damage to delicate eggs. Plus, the RPCs’ design ensures greater ventilation, so eggs cool quickly and stay fresh longer.

Take a closer look at our RPCs for eggs with this informational video. RPCs can help ensure you not only protect the safety of supermarket eggs you sell to consumers, but your operation’s bottom line as well.