Egg producing farmers in the Municipality of Powassan and surrounding communities now have a more efficient option when having their chicken eggs graded for wider consumer purchase and consumption.
The owners of Wand Family Farm in Powassan, Jennifer and Markus Wand, have opened a shell egg grading station at their farm.
The station means Powassan-area farmers no longer have to travel to Huntsville to have their eggs graded.
Locally the eggs are graded by Jennifer Wand in a repurposed heated garage that houses the grading station and two coolers where the eggs are stored.
And because the garage is heated, grading can take place year round.
The whole idea for a shell egg grading station was hatched during a meeting in January 2020 that involved several egg producing farmers, including the Wands, a poultry specialist from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs and another official from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
“Following that meeting there was a consensus among the producers that we should have a station for this area,” said Markus Wand.
Jennifer Wand added she and her husband talked about putting the grading station on their farm because it's centrally located among all the farms.
After discussing the initiative with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which regulates and licenses egg grading stations, the Wands were in business this past July.
Markus Wand says whenever farmers plan to sell their poultry eggs beyond their farm property, like to a grocery store, a restaurant or at a farmer's market, the eggs need to be graded.
Jennifer Wand says each egg that comes to the Wands needs to be cleaned, weighed and candled.
Candling is the process where an egg is held up to a small hole in a box or cylinder whose interior is lit by a bright light.
That light helps the grader determine if the egg has any blood spots inside the shell, if there are cracks on the shell and the size of the air sac.
Next, the eggs are weighed to determine if they are small, medium, large, extra large or jumbo sized.
Jennifer Wand can only grade one egg at a time but the process only takes a few seconds.
“It's when you have very dirty eggs that need to be wiped clean that the process becomes more time consuming,” said Jennifer Wand.
“We encourage the producers to clean their eggs before bringing them over, otherwise it takes double the time.”
Markus Wand adds if a farmer brings in eggs with manure or feathers stuck to them, his wife automatically rejects them.
“Jen doesn't even try to clean them,” Wand said.
“They go back to the farmer for a proper cleaning before coming back.”
Jennifer Wand says it's imperative that she doesn't allow any dirty eggs to pass through the grading process because even though the eggs don't belong to the Wands, it's the family business that's approving them.
When Jennifer Wand is done candling and weighing the eggs, they go into their respective cartons and she adds a best before date on the carton, nutrition facts as well as an identification code that tells the Wands which producer that batch of eggs came from.
Wand is able to grade 27 dozen eggs in an hour.
They charge producers $1.40 per dozen eggs and that includes the Wands supplying the egg cartons and storing the graded eggs until the owners pick them up.
The Wands say having the grading station on their property has saved them a lot of travelling time to Huntsville which is easily a one hour trip one way and Jennifer Wand was making that drive every two weeks.
“Plus when you consider the high cost of fuel nowadays, we're saving money not making that trip,” said Markus Wand.
Other local egg farmers also made the commute to Huntsville but now have the option of staying closer to home.
The service is still relatively new and so far the Wands say it's been well received by area farmers.
The Wands are open to the idea of other egg producing farmers beyond Powassan using the local station.
“But don't just show up because there could be someone else ahead of you having their eggs graded,” said Jennifer Wand.
She says set your arrival time with a reservation otherwise you could be waiting up to three hours if you arrive unannounced.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget