Shell strength: solid from shelf to shelf

“Humans tend to underestimate or overlook what they cannot perceive. But things that are invisible can have the greatest meaning and determine whether or not you produce successfully, ”explains Xabier Arbe.

To take an unprecedented look at shell strength, the perfect packaging for quality egg product, H&N International turned to one of the world’s most renowned science photographers: Stefan Diller.

Small things have big impacts. All the more so when your business is genetics and your craft is the careful observation and selection of unseen traits that will combine to result in a high performing breed. As one of the oldest genetics companies in the world with their own breeding pools optimized for consistent shell resistance under various feeding and living conditions, H&N International knows everything to excel in mostly areas. invisible to the human eye. Just like Stefan Diller, who has worked as a photographer and scanning electron microscope (SEM) director for over 30 years.

Unlike conventional microscopes that work with light, SEMs use beams of electrons to scan surfaces. Since electrons travel at a shorter wavelength than visible light, high-end SEMs can visualize up to 0.5 nanometers (the diameter of two carbon atoms), as opposed to the 200 nanometers of optical microscopes. currents. Simply put, SEMs can show much smaller structures than optical microscopes.



10 raised to the power of 0

= 10 dm



10 raised to the power -1

= 10cm



10 raised to the power -2

= 10 mm



10 raised to the power -3

= 1000 µm


I am

10 raised to the power -6

= 1000 nm



10 raised to the power -9

= 1000 hours

From dust to mold

Stefan Diller finds his inspirations everywhere. For example, in the dusty contents of vacuum cleaner bags. In 2013, a selection of 12 SEM images showing various airborne particles and common air pollutants ranging from dust to mold spores, pollen or even the smallest diesel soot were exhibited at the Brussels Green Week 2013 “Cleaner air for all” held from 4e to June 7 by the European Union.

Global media coverage was massive, and SEM images from the “Visualizing the Invisible” exhibit were even briefly shown on a Jumbotron in New York Times Square. Doing it here felt like a “quarry” for all the material that had been sampled for SEM shoots from house dust, car exhaust pipes and polluted air filter mesh.

There can only be one – the right time to ‘crack’

The packaging of the product is almost as important as the product itself, and that’s certainly true for eggs. There is only one good “crack” moment, and that is when the end customer intends to use the egg. From the laying hen to the various stations of the logistics and value creation chains, passing through the shelves of the markets and finally to the kitchen table, the eggshell must contain and preserve the contents.

Since any number of eggs is only as good as their shell strength and therefore their selling ability, H&N International selects and measures all of their breeds for optimum shell strength under all conditions.

“Getting some 500 eggs might sound great. If each egg is intact and salable, of course! says Xabier Arbe.

Getting a lot of unsaleable eggs can be a hell of wasted resources and money. Investing in birds, barns, feed type, and all other production costs only pays off when the eggs produced are salable.

Does your wallet “bleed” in silence?

“A salable egg is worth about four times the food it took to produce it. This quadruples your stakes, ”explains Dr David Cavero. “An unsaleable egg is not only worth zero, but puts you in the red because it presents a negative investment.”

Smaller amounts may seem negligible, but they add up. This is why it is so much more important to do calculations in the diaper business so as not to let the margins melt away unnoticed.

Count your daily egg production and balance salable eggs versus unsaleable eggs. Or count all the broken eggs. The latter can be harder to find, so you have a harder time achieving when your actual egg production is below your expectations.

“Good shell strength literally protects your wallet from constant bleeding. This is exactly why H&N International selects all breeds for excellent shell resistance, ”explains Arbe.

The fine line between good and perfect

What separates good shell strength from excellent is the fact that, by inherent instinct, a laying bird chooses to eat the exact amount of chalk it needs, from any food, to create a shell that is hard enough and not just “a little harder”. as needed.

“H&N birds are true sculptor artists. We select them for this instinctive food ration which naturally also takes into account the resistance of the shell. H&N birds know exactly how much food to eat to continuously create eggs with excellent shell strength each. Our birds can handle different feeds by automatically adjusting their feeding habits and stomach elasticity, so that farmers can switch between different quality feeds without having to worry about the decrease in shell strength that would make otherwise their unstable and unsaleable efforts, ”explains Dr. Cavero.

Not to see is not to know – but to refuse to see is ignorance.

Crucial production factors such as shell strength and flexibility of feed intake have always been fundamental criteria of H&N birds “because this is what our markets need to produce successfully and outperform others”, explains Dr Cavero. Still, shell strength and food tolerance may seem new to the industry.

Indeed, many stakeholders have no interest in talking about it since their birds do not have these characteristics. They profit from not investing in their own selections and get away with inflexible breeds or high amounts of unsaleable eggs, and their customers only realize these flaws after buying them, if ever. Egg farmers pay the price without realizing it.

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