From the Henhouse to Your Plate: An Egg’s Traceability
Food traceability is a simple and effective way of knowing where the food comes from and the animal rearing conditions of the product, to help facilitate buying locally. In Europe, eggs have a very precise traceability which makes it possible to make the right choices. This was very noticeable during SOSCuisine’s latest trip to Italy.
Sold at room temperature
For starters, in Europe, eggs are kept at room temperature in the supermarket and grocery stores. This is the exact opposite of North America, where eggs are kept in the refrigerator. In Italy and in other European countries, laying hens are vaccinated against salmonella from the outset, and rearing conditions are different with a very low risk of salmonella.
In Canada, the eggs are washed, which removes their natural barrier against bacteria (cuticle) and then they are kept in the refrigerator. This preservation in the refrigerator creates a thermal shock and condensation inside the egg which promotes the proliferation of bacteria and weakens it. In Europe, on the other hand, eggs are not found in the refrigerators of the stores, but rather on the shelves. If you buy the eggs at the supermarket, it is recommended to put them in the refrigerator only once you arrive at home, however if you buy eggs from an organic farm, you can leave them at room temperature even at home.
Here is how egg traceability works in Europe. On each egg, there is a specific type of code, for example X-AA-YYY-BB-ZZZ.
- X : Given a value of 0, 1, 2 or 3 which indicates the type of breeding (see below).
- AA : Abbreviation for the country of the European Union where the egg was laid.
- YYY : Code of the municipality of production.
- BB : Code of the province of production.
- ZZZ : Animal rearing identification.
The different types of animal rearing
- 0 : Eggs from organic farming.
- 1 : Free-range (or “open-air”) farming: hens move freely and have at least 4 square meters of vegetation-covered outdoor terrain.
- 2 : “On the ground” rearing: hens are in a building, but without outside ground.
- 3 : Cage breeding.
Eggs are also separated into three categories:
- Category A Plus: The freshest eggs, untreated and unrefrigerated. Marketable until the ninth day after laying (or the seventh day after packaging).
- Category A: Fresh, untreated and non-refrigerated eggs. The minimum shelf life indicated on the label is calculated as 28 days from the date of laying.
- Category B: Second quality or “decommissioned” eggs, not sold on the market and intended for food processing.
It is recommended to keep the eggs in the carton in which they are sold for optimum preservation.
In Canada, egg traceability is different in each province. I invite you to do some research to find out what the codes mean!
Check out our recipes made with eggs.
Would you like to have better traceability for your food?
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