Study analyzes egg production


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Hongwei Xin, professor of agricultural & biosystems engineering, reaches in for eggs produced by chickens in the lab on March 7.

Emily Drees

The U.S. Egg Industry 50-Year Comparison Study looked at specific objectives, such as comparing modern egg production with how the industry operated 50 years ago. 

These findings will be announced in April 2013.

This comparison study was led by Hongwei Xin, ISU professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and director of the Egg Industry Center.

Xin said their goal was to quantify how much progress has been made over the past 50 years in regards to egg production, environmental improvement, animal welfare, food safety, etc.

Xin and his team started this research process in April 2012. To start off this study, the team had to collect and analyze data from 1960 as well as from 2010.

Xin said in order to get accurate data, they had to go through extensive research and talk to the most knowledgeable people of these times. They were also able to look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s numbers for information, statistics and resources.

After all of the data was collected, it was taken to the Egg Industry Center, which is located in the National Swine Research Center on Iowa State’s campus.

“Though the data is not set in stone yet, the fatality rates of hens have dropped significantly, fewer eggs are being discarded or unable to be used for packaging and the whole process of a hatchery is requiring fewer resources which is, in turn, causing less stress on the environment,” said Maro Ibarburu-Blanc, associate scientist in the Egg Industry Center.

Xin said this study analyzes everything that goes into producing eggs, from the feed to how usable the eggs are.

“Essentially this is a study being done on the hens from birth until death,” Xin said.

Xin and Iarburu-Blanc said when they finalize the statistics and research from this 50-year study, they will be able to provide absolute numbers instead of relative numbers, which will then lead one to be able to tell the exact price of a dozen of eggs.

This, however, is just one study of many the Egg Industry Center has done.

The Egg Industry Center was started due to the need in the industry for research and a link between research and producers.

Xin said funding for research is declining and there are limited resources for doing such research.

They established the center to support research activities as well as provide education purposes for ISU students.

He said the relevant research is brought into the center, analyzed and then sent out to the producers the information may be relevant to. 

Lisa Vold, the communications specialist at the center, said although the center sends out finalized data after research is completely analyzed, they also send out newsletters.

“There is a long period of time that research is going on that producers may not get the updates or the information that they need,” Vold said. “When we get a hold of new information that would be helpful and relevant, we send out newsletters. This is what helps fill that gap of time while the research is being conducted.”

This center is not only serving producers nationally, but also internationally.