December 15, 2016
U.S. egg farmers have employed strict biosecurity measures for decades to keep their flocks healthy and protect hens from disease. Many egg farms have enhanced their biosecurity in recent years as more is learned about transmission of diseases that can harm birds.
While no two egg farms are exactly alike, here are some examples of newer biosecurity practices that some egg farms employ.
- Viruses that are harmful to birds can be carried and spread unknowingly on clothes and footwear, vehicles and equipment.
- To limit the chance for disease to be brought onto the farm, only employees and approved service providers are allowed onto egg and poultry farms. Service providers are delivering feed or supplies, transporting eggs or providing other assistance to the farm.
- Most egg farms disinfect all vehicles, footwear and equipment upon entry on the farm or into a barn.
- Egg farmers also limit the movement of personnel, vehicles or equipment between different farms when possible.
- Some egg farms feature a guard at the entry point and require all drivers to complete paperwork before gaining entry to the farm.
- Some farms have installed footbaths that disinfect the footwear of anyone entering the barn. When used, the footbath is changed daily, or even more often if it collects dirt, egg contents or manure.
- Hand-washing or hand-sanitizing stations are being used at the entrances of many egg farms.
- Many egg farms now use a Danish entry system, which provides more separation between the outside environment and the hens’ living area.
- Personnel are required to change footwear when they enter the hen house. Some egg farms have added designated changing areas, where personnel “shower in” and change into designated coveralls and protective gear that stays at the farm. When their day’s work is done, they “shower out,” change back into their original clothes, and leave the designated clothing at the farm. This shower in/shower out system further limits the change that a disease could come onto the egg farm through clothes or footwear.
- Procedures are in place to prevent the accidental entrance of wildlife and water fowl and to remove them from poultry houses and other areas should they gain entrance. Feed bins and mills are secured to prevent contamination by wild birds or rodents, and spilled feed is cleaned up promptly, so it does not attract wild birds and rodents. Netting may be placed above the feed area so that the wild birds cannot get into the hens’ feed. Another way some farms reduce water fowl is by stringing fishing lines over ponds to prevent wild birds from landing and potentially spreading disease.
The majority of eggs available in grocery stores are produced under UEP Certified standards, which mean the egg farms voluntarily commit to follow guidelines established for the well-being of egg-laying hens. A third-party auditor certifies that egg farms follow the UEP Certified guidelines, which include training in biosecurity and hen care practices for all hen caretakers. All employees sign a code of conduct that they will follow the farm’s standards, and that they will avoid contact with other birds not owned by the egg farm.