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Quality assurance training for egg producers

Andrew Almond

Longerenong College, RMB 3000 Horsham, Victoria 3401


Quality Assurance (QA) is not usually included among the commonly quoted ‘modes’ of extension – yet QA can have marked impact on farmer practices. This paper outlines an example of a QA program implemented by a poultry extension specialist for the egg industry in Victoria. QA is now part of life in manufacturing and becoming commonplace in many agricultural production industries. The Australian commercial egg industry recognised the need for quality assurance programs to minimize many of the risks in selling eggs to the public. The supermarkets and ultimately, egg consumers have driven this process. QA programs for egg producers must encompass many different codes of practice, government regulations, food safety, welfare, biosecurity and quality standards. Hazard Analysis principles (based on HACCP) are used to determine the hazards that can severely affect viability of egg farms.

This paper will outline the concept of quality assurance, describe the needs for QA in the egg industry, and then discuss the methods and outcomes of a QA training program designed for the Victorian egg industry in 2003

Three key learnings: (1) Training programs for QA must be succinct and relevant to egg producers. From varied social and educational backgrounds. (2) Hazard analysis based on HACCP1 principles is an effective tool for training producers to understand the egg industry QA program. (3) QA programs are difficult to implement so cannot be achieved through single “courses’. They need continuous support from the training provider and industry organisations.

Key words

HACCP, hazard analysis, procedures, records, audit, production.


Quality management systems are now part of life for the manufacturing industry and are becoming common place among major agricultural industries. The commercial egg industry in Australia has recognised the need for quality assurance programs to minimize many of the risks that can affect the farms.

However, the large number of hazards present on poultry farms has forced the industry to adopt proposals for various different QA programs designed to control these hazards. A single QA document that amalgamated the different programs was prepared and training sessions developed for the Victorian egg producers.

The QA program brought together the following codes of practice and requirements then amalgamated them into a single document:

  • Welfare audit for the egg industry.
  • Labelling laws.
  • Code of practice for biosecurity in the egg industry (Grimes and Jackson, 2002).
  • Code or practice for shell egg, production, grading, packing and distribution (Dept Human Services, 1997).
  • Occupational Health and Safety on commercial egg farms.
  • Environmental management systems for commercial egg farms.

Victorian egg producers comprise a wide range of farm owners and managers who have come to the industry through farm purchase or through family succession. There is a range of ethnic groups and educational backgrounds, and to enable these managers to understand the importance of adopting a Quality Assurance program, a novel method of training was required – which would also help in the implementation of the QA program on each farm.

There are around 100 large scale egg producers in Victoria, supplying eggs to the retail egg market. These farms produce eggs from cages, barns or free-range systems and the majority of farm owners / managers are members of farmer representative organisations. These networks were used to organise a number of training workshops, with a total of 20 farms represented per training session.

In partnership with egg producer members of the Victorian Farmer Federation, and Longerenong College conducted manager training sessions that covered 80% of the eggs produced in Victoria. Farm representatives attended two training sessions that introduced the elements of a generic egg QA program and given tools to help develop their own farm manual.

Outline of the QA training process and content

The producers were offered two training sessions that covered the various components shown below:

Session 1

  • Introduction to the QA program,.
  • Quality, biosecurity, food safety and welfare issues effecting the farm,
  • Introduction to HACCP method,
  • Identification of hazards that affect egg farms,
  • Monitoring and control of the farm hazards.

Session 2

  • Preparing the farm QA manual,
  • How to correct a problem area,
  • Records to verify that the hazards are being controlled,
  • Using farm checklists ad audit documents,.
  • Training for farm staff.
  • On farm audit visit.

Training material was assembled in a generic manual (prepared for a "representative farm") that producers could use as a guide to adapting the program for their farm. The manual was written in a style that would allow farms from the cage, barn and free-range sectors of the industry to use the template.

The on farm quality assurance system are influenced by the objectives of the farm, its products and the specific production practices carried out, and therefore they will be different for each farm. If the farm is part of a cooperative or a larger organisation then the objectives of that organisation will become part of the farm’s objectives. At the start of the training sessions the participants are challenged with some basic concepts of quality assurance, and are asked about the consequences of not being in control of an egg production system all the time.

In introducing concepts of QA, producers often state that their farm sells only quality eggs. Their claims are challenged by asking whether this high quality is the case all the time. They are made to think about levels of risk and quality, by asking whether they “get it right even 99% of the time” on their farms. Some simple statistics are used to ‘bring home’ the meaning of “getting it right 99% of the time” to the producers (see Box 1).

Box 1. Is ‘close enough’ good enough’ for the egg producer?

For a 20,000 bird farm being right 99% of the time means in one year means:

  • 150 cracked eggs being packed into retail cartons per day.
  • 55,000 cracked eggs are packed per year.
  • 60 tonnes feed is paid for but not received.
  • Egg collections leave 15,000 eggs behind to rot.
  • Water does not flow to layer sheds 3 times per year.
  • 200 replacement pullets delivered are males.
  • Overpaying each staff member $200.
  • 50 nipple drinkers not working every day.
  • Your clients not paying for 1% of deliveries, that is $5,500 per year.

In the initial session, producers are asked whether the standard of ‘getting it right 99% of the time’ is likely to be good enough to keep them in business in the market they sell into. This raises the issue of ‘what level of risk is acceptable on their farms’.

HACCP principles - a core part of training

The training program adapted a quality monitoring tool called HACCP to help identify hazards to food safety associated with various stages in egg production and storage. This system (Stevenson and Bernard 1995) virtually eliminates the need for final product testing, by identifying the hazards likely to occur during the egg production process and by analysing the level of risk. Once the level of risk has been identified, measures are put in place to control the possibility of the final product being contaminated or ruined.

The seven principles involved in a HACCP program are shown in Box 2.

Box 2. The seven principles of a HACCP adapted from Stevenson and Bernard (1995)

1. Identify and list hazards that can occur at each step in the production process.

2. Identify the Critical Control Points (CCP) where hazards are prevented, eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. These hazards will irrevocably damage the final product – eggs that the customer will purchase.

3. Establish critical limits for preventive measures at each CCP. A critical limit is a measurable value that must be kept within the given limits to prevent, eliminate or reduce the hazard.

4. Establish monitoring procedures for each CCP, including allocating responsibility to properly trained personnel. Ask What, When, Where and How is monitoring occurring, and Who is doing it.

5. Define the corrective action to be taken when monitoring indicates that a CCP has been exceeded. This step prevents contaminated eggs being sold to customers and contamination occurring again.

6. Develop and maintain effective record keeping procedures.

7. Develop a verification program that confirms the adequacy of CCP's and critical limits; ensures proper operation of the HACCP plan and reassesses the plan.

Documentation is required that verifies CCP’s are being controlled.

Nowadays the public are not only more informed about the quality of the products they buy in the market place but are presented with a diverse range of foods to choose from. Customers are becoming discerning with regard to the foods they buy, which means that issues other than safety, price and quality are influencing their purchases.

The HACCP analysis principles used in the training sessions for the Victorian egg producers not only cover factors effecting food safety, but are also applied to areas of poultry welfare, environmental considerations relating to egg farms, biosecurity of the farm, welfare of the birds, labelling and the occupational health and safety issues (OH&S) that effect both the farm and the industry as a whole. An example of a HACCP Sheet is shown in the Appendix.

Discussion and outcomes

The training may have held Victorian egg producers realise that all commercial egg farms in Victoria will be expected to develop and implement a working Quality Assurance program, because their customers are demanding that the safety and quality of eggs in the market be assured.

For a QA program to be developed and implemented on a farm, all employees within that business must have a commitment to producing a quality product. Thus training of staff in each step in producing a quality product is necessary. When staff have sufficient information about the expectations of the farm manager and a thorough knowledge of how QA can help the farm develop, then a commitment to egg quality will follow.

Because a number of producers have poor English and the elements of the QA program are broad and diverse, the training sessions had to be structured into simple steps, complemented by question and answer sessions, as well as written exercises that covered the basic elements of the QA program. Clear visual aids and extensive group discussion were needed in exercises to complete the tasks.

At the end of the first session the producers were required to prepare a list of critical control points that occurred during their egg production process, and also to develop a set of procedures to control these hazards.

The procedures were discussed and refined during the second session and other important elements of the QA manual were also introduced and discussed.

A visit to each egg farm was arranged to review the progress of the farm QA manual and to:

  • Review important farm records,
  • Test the important elements the QA plans are actually working.
  • Review records that verify hazards are being controlled
  • Improving the QA farm plan.

The QA training days achieved the objective of instructing egg producers about how to identify the hazard areas of a generic farm and how to prepare a generic HACCP analysis document. However, the progress in further developing QA manuals on the home farm has been very limited.

This has shown that effective training for the preparation of the farm QA manual requires a person trained in QA program development to spend time at each farm to follow up and help prepare the required procedures. This requires the time to work with the relevant members of the farm to complete the various parts of the documentation required of the farm’s QA program.

Although producers attended the training sessions and completed the material requested at the end of the first session, the audits conducted later on farms revealed that many following tasks were either incomplete or had not been attempted:

  • Procedures for each of the steps in producing eggs for market.
  • Completing the HACCP sheets for on farm CCPs .
  • Preparation of records that verify that CCPs are being controlled and the QA program is working.

A number of egg producers claimed that they were not confident or sufficiently trained to convey the required information to the staff, and hence the ability to implement the total on farm program was severely restricted on a number of farms.


HACCP analysis principles originally designed to test food safety procedures have been shown in this program to be an effective tool for training farmers in analysing an array of different requirements that need to be considered on commercial egg farms. Off farm training sessions are effective in conveying concepts and in “walking” participants through a generic program. Group members can work together to help each other understand the concepts of QA for their industry.

Many producers reported of the difficulties encountered in trying to convey the important components of the QA program to their farm situation and to farm workers – hence impeding the ability of the full QA program to be implemented. However, all producers stated that they benefited from the farm visit by the trainer to discuss and help prepare their farm procedures and records. The farm workers could also be given more detailed instructions by the trainer on such visits, with the aid of the farm manager.


Stevenson KE and Bernard DT (1995). HACCP - Establishing Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Programs. The Food Processors Inst., Washington D.C.

Victorian Department of Human Services (1977). Code of practice for shell eggs production, grading, packing and distribution. Melbourne, Victoria.

Grimes T and Jackson C (2002). Biosecurity in the egg industry, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.

Appendix - Example of HACCP Sheet used by producers in the training

Hazard Step ____________________________________________________

Step number

Critical Control Point

Preventive Measure

Critical Limit


Corrective or Immediate Action/ Longer Term Action


Number each step in your flow chart

What is the actual point in your step that is causing the problem

What action can you take to stop the problem occurring

Place an operating limit on the CCP so you can measure if the it.

You can then find out if the problem is occurring again.

This step requires a number, time, or event that can be documented on record sheets.


is to be monitored


What happens when the CCP is exceeded or goes wrong?

Hard copy, diary, electronic, but it must be kept somewhere.

In the eyes of an auditor without records it didn't happen!


is it monitored


Who makes the decision to deal with it


is it recorded


What do you do to ensure that the problem can be fixed properly?


is it checked




is doing the checking


1 HACCP – Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points

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