Egg Industry Center

EIC Research

Through the years, the Egg Industry Center has been involved in numerous research projects. Highlighted below is our current work and to the right we have highlighted some of our more widely known work.


Mitigation of ammonia and PM generation in litter-floored cage-free hen housing systems

Cage-free laying hen housing systems have introduced the challenge of poor air quality. This is due mostly to increased bird activity in floor areas with litter which produces increased concentrations of particulate matter (PM). While acidic electrolyzed water (AEW) systems can help mitigate PM levels and disinfect housing environments, this type of added moisture in the system may generate higher levels of ammonia because of an increase the moisture content of the litter.

This lab-scale study, and later commercial scale investigation, tests the effect of AEW on PM and ammonia generation and emissions with a goal to identify the optimal combination of AEW spray dosage and PH to reduce PM and ammonia. The preliminary results of the lab-scale study indicate PM can be reduced by 60-70% without an adverse effect on ammonia emissions.

Quantifying individual hen’s feeding and nesting behaviors in group housing and the impact of resource allocation on these responses

As more operations move to group housing systems it is important to understand hen behavior within these groups. Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) on hens in enriched colony housing systems (ECH), researchers have been able to begin to quantify items like time spent in the nest box, number of visits to the nest box per egg laid, and percent of eggs laid in scratch pad areas or perch areas. The goal of this work is to enhance the next generation of equipment by improving nest box design.

While research is on-going, preliminary results show that laying hens in ECH systems spent on average 56 minutes inside the next box either laying eggs or exploring the area. This amounted to approximately 17 visits per day. While a majority (93%) of the eggs are laid in the nest box, 4.4% of the eggs were laid in the scratch area and 2.9% were laid in the perch area. Additionally, researchers found that the nest box maximum capacity occurred 5-6 hours after the lights were turned on.

Evaluating effects of LED vs. CFL lighting on behaviors and production performance of pullets and laying hens

Light is a crucial environmental factor that affects bird’s development, production performance, health, well-being and product quality of modern egg production. This project's goal has been to assess  pullet behavior, hen production and egg quality, lighting preferences and locomotion and activity levels when comparing commercial light-emitting-diode (LED) lighting and typical compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting.

While research is on-going, preliminary results show that pullets reared under the LED light tended to be more active than those reared under the CFL light from week 6 to week 12. Cumulative egg production, average hen-day egg production, average feed use, average egg weight, and all egg quality parameters were comparable among the four light treatments over 21-41 weeks of age. Pecking (severe in some cases) in both lighting regiments occurred in the early stage of laying. Pullets tended to spend less total time in LED than CFL, and higher proportion of pullets tended to choose CFL for resting during dark period. Current data shows no evidence of advantages due to choosing one lighting type over the other.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) related projects

Air and environmental sampling of infected poultry (layer and turkey) barns to determine dust as a possible carrier of the HPAI virus

This study tested the hypothesis that HPAI virus exhausted from infected barns can be carried by dust particles that are then airborne-transmitted to adjacent negative barns and over certain distances downwind, thereby posing a risk of infection and outbreak.

The completed study showed that dust in affected poultry barns can carry the virus, indicating a need to stop such transmission as quickly as possible once a flock is inflected. Results indicate that additional research is needed to discover means by which to filter or treat virus-laden air for barn ventilation.

Assessment of the relationship between HPAI outbreaks and weather pattern through meteorological modeling

Objectives of this study include using the information gathered from the Spring 2015 AIV outbreak in Iowa to examine the effect of weather patterns and prevailing winds on the infections that occurred.

The preliminary results of this on-going study indicate a potential exists for air originating from the inflected facilities to have played a role in the spread of disease. This demonstrates the need to promptly stop the emission of the virus-laden air from the positive facilities and to explore ways of stopping the virus-laden air from entering the negative barns.

Modeling of ventilation shutdown (VSD) to help stop HPAI virus transmission

One of the key lessons learned from the HPAI outbreaks was the imperativeness of quickly stopping the virus transmission by depopulating the infected flocks as soon as possible. The U.S. Department of Agriculture now recommends depopulating the inflected flocks within 24 hours of positive confirmation. 

With the number of birds involved in today’s commercial layer facilities and the absolute necessity of swift depopulation, ventilation shutdown (VSD) offers an effective euthanasia solution in emergency situations.  However, proper procedures must be followed to ensure its success and the well-being of the animals involved.

A critical component for successful VSD is the supply of ample supplemental heat and proper distribution of the heat. The research team developed a computer model that simulates the indoor environment upon VSD and the supplemental heat capacity required to reach and maintain the target environment for different housing styles, production stage of the birds, and a range of weather conditions. This information has been adopted and used by the USDA and egg producers. When available, field data are being collected to continue validation and refinement of the model. 

Heat treatment of egg flats to ensure biosecurity

After the outbreak of HPAI in Spring 2015, all biosecurity activities were re-considered in the egg industry. Plastic egg flats are used to transport eggs from off-line egg farms to central egg processing plants. In so doing, movement of the egg flats among different farms has the inherent risk of moving pathogens from farm to farm. 

This project investigates the protocol of increased biosecurity through heat-treating the egg flats to a certain threshold temperature (e.g., 130-140°F) for a certain period of time to ensure that any pathogens on the flats will be destroyed. This ongoing experiment will determine how fast heat will penetrate into the wrapped stacks of egg flats and the most effective design of such a heating system.  This information will be used by the industry in constructing and implementing  new biosecurity measures related to the reuse of egg flats.



Collaborative Partnership including EIC

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© 2017 Egg Industry Center. All rights reserved.