In 2008, Georgia commercial egg plants processed almost 14 million cases of table eggs (USDA, 2009). A survey of water use in U.S. shell egg processing facilities in 2005 showed that on average shell egg plants utilize 1.5 gallons of water per case, with 36% of plants reporting using less than 1 gallon per case and 30% utilizing over 2 gallons per case (Jones and Northcutt, 2005). This wide variation in water use indicates that significant opportunities exist to increase efficiency of water use,... decrease wastewater generation, and increase a commercial egg processor’s bottom line.
Interestingly, statistical analysis of the data collected in the 2005 survey showed that neither the region of the U.S. where the plant was located, the size of the facility, nor the type of operation (in-line, off-line or mixed) affected the average gallons of water used to process a case of eggs. Survey data analysis showed that water use was not related to the length of the processing day nor to the number of days the plant operated per week. Neither the age of the facility or the equipment, or manufacturer of the equipment had an influence on water use. Not even the addition of a flat washer or frequency of sanitation operations had any effect on average water use. So what accounts for the wide variation in water use at commercial egg plants? One answer to this question lies in understanding water loss and its affect on efficient water use.