“Welcome to the Eggs-perience”
On Friday, December 10th, SOFSA Advisory Board member Christina Hudson Kohler led a site visit of her fourth-generation, family-owned egg farm in Elbridge, NY, Hudson Egg Farms. Beyond her awesome work for SOFSA, Christina is the Egg Processing Manager at her family’s egg farm, as well as the current New York Farm Bureau Young Ranchers and Young Farmers Chair. She also serves as the Onondaga County Farm Bureau’s Promotion & Education Chair.
The tour began with a brief introduction and history of Hudson Egg Farms. Christina’s father, Lee Huson, her uncle Peter and cousin Christopher currently co-own the farm. It is located in between Camillus and Skeaneatlas, on a beautiful piece of land at what Christina aptly called “The Gateway to the Finger Lakes.” Lee gave the group a full rundown of the farm’s background; the farm began as a mixed crop, egg and dairy farm before eventually becoming the egg-only operation it is today. The family still leases their unused land to local farmers who grow crops on it.
After some history from Lee, Christina took the group to the egg processing room, where we were able to observe as eggs were belted in from the laying-houses to be cleaned, checked, and packed. The eggs go through an initial wash, whereafter workers pick through broken eggs and put them aside to be shipped off and processed into liquid egg products.
The unbroken eggs are then inspected via a live camera after their initial wash. The camera checks every egg as it continues on the conveyor belt, sending eggs back for a second wash if they are still dirty. After the eggs are verified as clean, they continue onto the packing stations, where they are packed in different containers based on where the next step of their journey is.
The Hudson Egg Farms facilities consist of this egg processing facility, the cold storage where the packed eggs await transport, the barns where the chickens live, a feed mill where the Hudson family mixes their own chicken feed, and a wastewater treatment plant that Christina initiated. Hudson Egg Farms is the only egg farm in New York state with its own wastewater treatment plant and produces material that is eventually mixed with chicken manure and used to fertilize soil.
In addition to eggs and liquid eggs, Hudson Egg Farms sells its chicken manure to farmers, although Christina told the group that there is currently a waiting list for this product. After the laying hens have completed their life cycle, their carcasses are also sold to a processor in Canada that turns them into other products such as pet food.
Hudson Egg Farms sells all over the state and the Northeast; they have long been selling eggs in Massachusetts but new regulations on cage-free eggs will prevent them from doing so starting January 1st. Christina and Lee educated the group on the pros and cons of cage-free egg farming, illustrating how oftentimes caged chickens are able to be kept in cleaner environments because their manure falls straight through to a conveyor belt where it can be transported away and easily cleaned. Hudson Egg Farms started as cage free, and recent market shifts towards cage-free eggs have encouraged the family to consider shifting back again. However, the cost would be in the millions to change over their infrastructure.
The eggs go down the conveyor belt for their initial wash. Christina removed the door so we could see inside the washer. The eggs are inspected one by one via a high-tech camera.
Christina and her family are committed to providing delicious local eggs for their community, and maintaining a high quality of life for their birds. By remaining small, they are able to support their local community; Christina described several different ways in which they interact with students from Cornell’s agricultural school as well as even teaching about egg farming to a class of third graders. To support Hudson Egg Farms, you can buy any Byrne Dairy private label eggs or purchase eggs from the local groceries in Syracuse such as the Syracuse Cooperative Market.