The EGGS! program arranged by VIV and sponsored by WATT included presentations by leading international experts in the areas of economics, egg quality and genetics. The comprehensive common theme was the interrelationship of nutrition, economics, disease and management in achieving optimal efficiency.

Ir. Albert Vernooij, of Rabobank and Ir. Peter van Horne of the LEI Institute considered the economic future of the egg industry from their respective commercial and academic perspectives. Their important messages included the increasing need for balanced protein in diets to feed a burgeoning world population.

The reality is that future rates of expansion will be higher in Asia and Latin America compared to Europe and North America. International trade in shell eggs will be confined to specific regions. The factors influencing expansion will include considerations such as sustainability, welfare, food safety and production costs.

Causes of shell abnormalities

The causes of shell abnormalities were reviewed by Drs. Jac de Wit of the Animal Health Service Deventer. These included nutrient deficiencies, exposure to disease, mismanagement and improper housing. Many factors interact synergistically exacerbating shell abnormalities and the presence of fecal staining. The need for appropriate and diligent diagnosis using advanced technology was stressed in relation to determining the causes of problems and their resolution.

Ir. Frans van Sambeek of the ISA Division of Hendrix Genetics provided an update on genetic selection for improved performance. Recent emphasis reflects industry trends to longer egg production cycles. Accordingly geneticists are adjusting their criteria for selection to include persistence in egg production, livability, behavior in both confined and non-confined housing and egg quality.

Selection of lines is now based on the application of DNA markers to identify individual birds and families with a genetic predisposition for desired traits. Genomic selection will expedite progress in attaining enhanced performance from egg-production flocks at the commercial level.

Incubation, modules increase harvest

The Circadian Incubation concept was described by Dr. Marleen Boerjan of Pas Reform. Subjecting embryos to a short period of elevated temperature (103F) on each of three days during the hatching phase increases live weight of broilers at harvest. Given accumulated field data it is calculated that an additional 1,200 tons of processed meat could be harvested each year by an integrator producing 1 million broilers per week.

The commercial advantages of the Patio system for broiler production were detailed by Ir. Lotte van de Ven of Vencomatic. This system is effectively a multi-tier broiler growing module capable of being retrofitted to existing units to increase output per unit of floor area. The uniqueness of the system is that eggs are conveyed directly from the hatchery at the time of transfer and transported to the broiler house. Eggs hatch in the trays and chicks then develop to maturity in the growing modules. The system has been tested over 42 cycles in three locations in Holland and has been ordered by an integrator in Russia.

Innovations fine-tune efficiency

The contribution of the Catholic University of Leuven to production efficiency was demonstrated in the papers delivered by Prof. Eddy Decuypere on embryonic development and Dr. Kristof Mertens on egg shell structure. Many innovations based on the work of scientists at this institution have been applied commercially including integrated control of carbon dioxide, humidity and temperature during incubation and circadian regulation of temperature during hatching.

Dr. Koen de Rue of the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research in Belgium compared the levels of microbiological contamination of eggs from conventional and enriched cages and from barn housing. Based on a review of literature and structured field trials it was concluded that there is no inherent risk of foodborne infection from alternative systems but refinements in the design of nest modules are required to optimize shell cleanliness and bacterial quality.

A novel approach to pasteurization of egg liquid was detailed by Dr. Roberto Colavitti of Sanovo Technology. The Wave system heats liquid to pasteurization temperature by inducing molecular friction when product is subjected to cycles of polarization and depolarization at a frequency of 27MHz. The resulting product has a shelf life exceeding 17 weeks and retains all the inherent functional properties of fresh eggs due to the fact that the configuration of proteins in albumen are unaffected as compared to conventional heat pasteurization.

The EGGS! program sponsored by WATT provided an opportunity for interaction among the participants representing production, research and development of equipment, benefitting progress through the exchange of knowledge.