• U.S.

Business: Frozen Eggs

3 minute read

To the layman as well as to the layer, a fresh egg in its shell has an air of completion. To a large and growing section of the egg business it is merely raw material.

Of 30 billion eggs laid in the U. S. last year, no fewer than two billion were broken, canned and frozen. In this state they have been or will be purchased and thawed out for use by big manufacturers of mayonnaise, macaroni, pastry, candy and ice cream. Frozen eggs differ from cold-storage eggs in that they are packed in bulk, not in the shell, are not merely chilled but actually frozen at sub-zero temperatures and may thus be preserved for from one to two years, whereas cold-storage eggs are usually kept not more than six months. Last week frozen eggs became a fullfledged commodity in the Midwest when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, No. 1 U. S. headquarters for egg speculation, admitted them to spot and future trading.* Almost exclusively a U. S. industry, egg freezing is clone by about 200 companies with plants in the egg belt of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, California, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. Their “breaking season,” which corresponds to the laying season for hens in the early spring and summer, began early this year because of unseasonable winter laying (TIME, Feb. 1). Biggest U. S. egg freezers are Standard Brands and Ovson Egg Co. of Chicago, a National Dairy subsidiary. Proudest is Ovson’s of the “Ovson process.” Russian-born President Morris Ovson, now 53, has been in the frozen egg business since 1902, when he went to work for Boston Eggman H. J. Keith. One of the first packers to experiment with egg freezing, Keith sent Ovson to China to open an egg-freezing plant in competition with time-honored Chinese methods of preservation.* The Ovson plant in Shanghai, now owned by Borden’s, is the largest in the Orient. Ovson and Keith later went into partnership in the O. K. Egg Co. of Chicago, of which the present company is an outgrowth.

This year Ovson’s hundreds of white-smocked girl workers at seven plants (Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Davenport, Moberly, Mo., Great Bend and Parsons, Kans.) will crack about 150,000,000 eggs by September. Ovson and other egg freezers concentrate on efficiency and sanitation, keep their eggs not more than ten days in cold storage before cracking. Ovson girls crack about 18 cases of eggs a day, smelling them all for mustiness. The yolks and whites are plopped into vats, strained and lightly churned. When plain yolks are canned separately they are likewise churned, but plain whites are sent through a process known as “over the falls,” streaming down six levels of strainers which remove bits of shell. Drawn off in 30-lb. tins, the liquid is immediately sealed and frozen in refrigerating rooms at —10° F.

*The New York Produce Exchange began trading in frozen eggs two years ago, but in this product as in shell eggs New York remains primarily a spot market. *Not burying but drying or sealing in alkaline paste. The latter method, by which old eggs attain a rare delicacy (for the Chinese) comparable to that of old brandy (for Westerners), has never found favor in the U. S.

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