Hen genetic strain and extended cold storage influence on physical egg quality from cage-free aviary housing system

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Abstract

In the United States, there is an increase in need for cage-free eggs in retail and food manufacturing sectors. Understanding the impact of cage-free systems and the corresponding management on egg quality is pertinent as the U.S. industry adapts existing housing and builds new cage-free housing structures. A study was conducted comparing 2 brown shell and 2 white shell hen strains housed in a cage-free aviary system. Each set of eggs were placed in cold storage and assessed at 0, 2, 4, 8, and 12 wk. Eggs were collected at 21, 31, 42, and 60 wk of hen age. A full profile of physical quality measurements was conducted on up to 18 intact eggs for each hen strain/egg storage/hen age combination. Egg weight increased approximately 10 g for brown shell and 14 g for white shell eggs as hens aged. Many of the properties monitored were significantly impacted by all 3 main effects (hen strain, egg storage, and hen age) resulting in 3-way interactions. A brown and a white shell strain had stronger shells (44 N; P < 0.0001) than the remaining brown and white shell strains (42 N and 39 N, respectively). The current study also determined volume of shell, total length, maximum width, and percent length at maximum width to more accurately indicate egg shape than shape index. One brown shell strain produced eggs with the most consistent shape characteristics over the hen ages monitored. White shell eggs from the cage-free aviary housing produced the highest whole-egg total solids between 31 to 60 wk of hen age, whereas brown shell eggs resulted in the most consistent level of whole-egg total solids (22-23.5%). The brown and white shell strains in the current study produce cage-free aviary eggs with distinctive physical quality attributes. The outcomes from this study can be utilized by the U.S. egg industry in planning management strategies and market placement of cage-free eggs.

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