It used to be that every farm family and many city families had flocks of chickens. People ate the eggs, took some of the eggs to the market for “egg money”, and eventually ate the chickens! Usually the mother and children cared for the chickens and the “egg money” was used for the children’s college education, personal or household items, or groceries.
It used to be that practically every town in Iowa included a hatchery where people could buy baby chicks.
It used to be that when people started to move to town and didn’t have flocks, rural families needed to provide more eggs for the city families. Flock sizes got larger and in many cases women managed the egg operations as a way to bring in more money for the family.
It used to be that during the World Wars, most of the eggs were used in the military. Eggs for consumers were very expensive. Some articles say that one egg cost $1.00.
It used to be that Iowa was number one in the nation in egg production during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Then other states built large egg production facilities where eggs were collected and moved to a packing area on a conveyor belt. Iowa no longer ranked first in production.
Then people started eating less eggs because they didn’t have their own chickens, more people were spending less time cooking breakfasts, and less people knew how to cook.
Then Iowa’s egg producers built the largest in-line operation in the world. Eggs were collected on a conveyor belt, passed through a few buildings of different aged chickens and ended up in an area where they were washed, candled, and packaged. This helped to meet the greater need of the grocery industry.
Then egg processors, called breakers, found ways to break eggs, separate the white and yolk, pasteurize the product, and make more convenient egg products.
Then researchers continued to work to improve everything about the egg industry including; breeds of laying hens, environments and nutrition for the laying hens, automation, marketing, and new products.
Then several of Iowa’s egg producers started building new or bigger facilities. More processing facilities were built. Iowa was very appealing because of the land, the grain for feed, the interstate systems to move eggs quickly to the coasts, and the hard working people.
Then Iowa’s egg producers started the Iowa Egg Council in 1973 to help increase egg consumption. The Iowa Egg Council used education, promotion, and research to promote the incredible edible egg.
Now, in 2012, Iowa again ranks 1st in the nation in egg production with 60 million laying hens producing over 15 billion eggs per year. The long buildings for the laying hens are environmentally controlled for temperature, humidity, feed, and water all to ensure that the laying hens are comfortable and producing the best quality eggs.
Now, Iowa provides enough eggs to give: An egg-a-day for the world population for 2 days, an egg-a-day for China for 11 days, and an egg-a-day for all Americans for 47 days.
Now Iowa’s egg processing facilities break more eggs than any other state in the United States. Iowa “breaks” about 42 percent of the eggs further processed in the U.S. The eggs are made into frozen, liquid, dried, or specialty egg products. Several of the products are used in food service or as an ingredient in thousands of different products.
Now lots of people don’t know how or don’t have time to cook. So, new convenient consumer products are being tested and introduced in the market place. Iowa Egg Council representatives are teaching people about the variety of easy ways to prepare eggs by giving programs at civic organizations, health fairs, state and county fairs, libraries, and hospitals.
Now egg consumption is going back up. Eggs contain the highest quality protein of any food found in nature at the least cost per serving. No other protein source can feed a family of four for less than a buck-fifty, which is about 15 cents per cerving.
New research shows that eggs have less cholesterol than ever before. The USDA recently reviewed the egg nutrient data. The results show the average amount of cholesterol in a large egg is 185 mg., 14 percent lower than previously recorded. One cause for the decrease in cholesterol level is the improvement in the feed given to the hens. Eggs provide all nine essential amino acids. They also contain antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help with reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (which is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 65) as well as the risk of cataracts.
Now Iowa’s egg industry is moving into the future while keeping an eye on experiences from the past in order to produce high quality eggs and egg products that meet consumers’ needs. World class hatcheries, production facilities, processing businesses, pharmaceutical companies, and research facilities located in Iowa make our industry “sunny side up”!