(NAFB)--Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Poultry Specialist Dr. Craig Coufal has led a team in designing a machine that can sanitize eggs quickly and cheaply without leaving a residue that would damage the cuticle or interfere with the natural development of the embryo. He’s hopeful this egg-sanitizing machine will revolutionize the poultry industry. The U.S. poultry industry incubates about nine-billion eggs each year. Those eggs - destined to hatch into broiler chicks - are not normally washed. But losses can occur when bacteria enters the shell and causes the egg to become rotten or the embryo to abort or the chick to hatch malformed. The loss is about one-percent - with Coufal notes is the loss of about 90-million chicks yearly. In a highly competitive industry that measures profit per chick as a penny or two - Coufal says cutting that one-percent loss in half would represent substantial savings to the industry.
Coufal’s machine sprays eggs with hydrogen peroxide and then exposes the eggs to germicidal UV light to kill bacteria on hatching eggs. He found neither treatment alone was sufficient to completely kill bacteria on the egg surface - but when used together - lab tests found eggs are rendered essentially bacteria-free. Not only does the process move quickly - no residue is left on the egg and there’s no apparent damage to the egg cuticle. According to Coufal - his team hasn’t found any increase in bacteria invasion into the egg or any loss of hatching weight that would signal cuticle damage.
During the next year - Coufal will work with a local commercial hatchery to measure just how effective the sanitation process is in reducing egg losses during large-scale field testing.