There are 780 packing stations in Spain. Farmers are the owners of the packing stations, so usually the packing station is in line with the farm building, or sometimes is shared by several farmers and located very close to the production sites.
The egg sorting and packing centres are food industries authorised by the competent authorities and included in the EU list of Food Industries with their registration number. They operate under the specifications of the EU Regulation (EC) nº 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004, laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin.
All packing stations have implemented the HACCP system, supervised by competent authorities, and have their traceability and control system in place. The EU egg marketing regulation for Category A (fresh) eggs stablish the marking of the egg shell with the farm (producer) code. In order to trace back any problem detected along the food chain to the farm, this code inform on the country of production, the production system and the registration number of the farm.
Moreover, as part of the traceability system, the egg packs are marked with the official number of the packing station. On a daily basis farms record the number of eggs produced and its destination. Packers also record the number of eggs, origin –farms- and production system, the number of sorted eggs (by categories and production systems) and the destination of the batches delivered to the market.
As most of farms and packing stations are part of the same company, the eggs produced goes on a daily basis from the farm to the industry, where they are sorted and packed without delay. In general, the customers receive the eggs one or two days after the day of lay.
Operators oriented to the exporting markets work with completely automatized systems based in modern packing machines (MOBA, Staalkalt) able to select and sort class A from and B eggs (dirty, cracked, broken eggs). The automated systems also use UV light to sanitize the shell surface.
Packing stations sort eggs by weight if necessary (the usual way of selling eggs for direct consumption in the EU is by size – XL, L, M and S) or pack directly without weighting, for the wholesale market.
Packing stations control the quality of eggs received and delivered. The link between the farm and the packing station makes very easy to have the useful information on the quantity and quality of the eggs produced and marketed, and total availability on the veterinary checks and controls, which gives a complete warranty of the egg safety. Farms and packing centres have their self-controls and the official ones.
The Agriculture authorities inspect farms. Agriculture and Health inspectors inspect egg industries.
The size of farms and the integration along the egg chain make the Spanish egg sector one of the most competitive in the EU.
Moreover, to help the egg industry to follow the strict EU regulations, the Spanish interbranch association for the egg and egg products (INPROVO) published the Guide of Good Practice for traceability, HACCP system implementation and egg labelling. They are available here (only in Spanish):