Making the Grade
Farmers from all over Alberta send their eggs to Sparks Egg Farms for grading. Once the eggs reach the grading station, they will be cleaned, candled, graded, sorted, packaged into cartons and then shipped to retail stores or commercial facilities.
The grading process begins with flats of eggs being lifted onto an assembly line. Metal arms with suction cups gently lift the eggs from the flats onto a moving track. The eggs are then sanitized in a high speed tunnel washer that gently scrubs the eggs. After washing, the eggs are examined using a process called candling.
During candling, the egg is passed over a strong light that makes the interior of the egg visible and also makes it easier to examine the exterior of the egg for defects. This allows the grader to assess the condition of the egg inside and out.
Eggs are graded as either A, B or C. Regulations and standards for grading are set by The Government of Canada. Only the best eggs are rated as Canada Grade A. Any eggs that do not meet Grade A standards are marked by the grader and separated into a different production stream by an electronic sensor.
GRADE A: sold at retail markets for household use
- thick white (albumen)
- well centred yolk
- small air cell, less than 5 mm deep
- clean, uncracked sound shell with normal shape
GRADE B: sold to commercial bakeries or restaurants
- yolk is slightly flattened, white is thinner
- shell is uncracked but may have rough texture or be slightly stained
GRADE C: not sold to consumers, must be sold to commercial processors for further processing only
- yolk is loose
- white is thin and watery
- shell may be cracked
Only Grade A eggs are sized, and this is done by weight. There is a weight range for each size. The most popular sizes are:
- peewee -- under 42 g
- small -- 42 g - 49 g
- medium -- 49 g - 56 g
- large -- 56 g - 63 g
- extra large -- 63 g - 70 g
- jumbo -- over 70 g
Each egg is weighed electronically, separated by size and directed to a station where they will be packed in recyclable cartons, made of either plastic, foam or fibre.
Every carton is stamped to indicate the Best Before Date. The Best Before Date lets you know how long the eggs will maintain their quality – usually 42 days after grading.
6 Billion Eggs Annually
Hens produce nearly 6 billion eggs per year in Canada. 82% of these are sold in their shell.
18% (of all grades and sizes) are processed into liquid, frozen or dried form to be used in the manufacturing of many foods, such as mayonnaise, noodles and baked goods. Processed eggs are also used to make other items such as pharmaceuticals, shampoo, pet foods and adhesives.
The eggs set aside for these uses are sent to egg processing plants. Special machines break eggs by the thousands and can separate yolks from whites. Whole or separated, the eggs are then pasteurized and sent in bulk form to bakeries and other customers of processed products.
Sparks Egg Farms was the first egg producer in Alberta to incorporate the printing of Best Before Dates on products, demonstrating the commitment to ensure the freshest, highest quality egg. With this process, Best Before Dates are applied with a Health Canada approved vegetable based food grade ink on each egg after it has been washed and candled.
After being packed in cartons, fresh eggs are again stored in a refrigerated unit. Before they are shipped, federal inspectors take random samples of the cartoned eggs for individual testing. Samples are candled, then temperature and size are measured, all to make sure they meet Grade A specifications. Inspectors also break eggs and measure the relationship of egg weight and white (albumen) height. It is measured in Haugh Units (H.U.). Eggs with better albumen quality have higher Haugh Unit measurements.
Quality control inspectors also monitor ungraded eggs at the grading station to assess the production quality of specific flocks.
Once approved, the graded eggs are shipped to supermarkets in cartons of 6, 12 and 18, and to restaurants and institutions in flats of 30.
Freshness is synonymous with Canada Grade A.
A Word from our Poultry Specialist
Ken Severson is the Nutrition and Poultry Specialist for Sparks Egg Farms. Ken takes care to make sure the hens and pullets are fed a balanced diet, and to safeguard their health and welfare.
The 4 Pillars
At Sparks Egg Farms we respect 4 important pillars of responsibility.
Read more on 4 Pillars
Our new facility in Westlock, Alberta, is a proud example of our strong commitment to sustainability.