Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

How Poultry Laboratories Keep Consumers (and Chickens) Safe

ANSWER: Because she wanted to lay it on the line! Ok, ok, sorry for the fowl joke… ha-ha-ha, we just can’t stop! Seriously though – we know that was an “egg-cellent” joke, but it’s time to get down to business. If we keep these jokes up we’re gon’na be working around the “cluck” to get everything done! Plus, we don’t want to risk getting “egg-spelled” from our job for goofing off, ya’ know?

We’re done. Really, we are. We promise.

We’re sure you’ve figured out by now that this article is going to be about another type of farming and chickens in some respect… but no, we don’t have a customer (yet) who individually labels all their chickens or their eggs. If we did have such a customer, maybe they’d want to label their eggs first… who’s to say?!

Just so you know, our fingers were crossed behind our backs when we made that promise earlier… so it doesn’t really count!

EggsWe’re not “egg-actly” sure when/why/how chicken jokes (sorry we just can’t help ourselves) became so popular and goofy, but our guess is that it dates back―at the very least―to the popularity of chickens and chicken breeding in the mid-to-late 1800’s, into the early 1900’s. It was during that time when the poultry industry struggled to move from backyard coops to full commercial enterprises raising large quantities of chickens.

It was a time when hen and pullet¹ production had become a hazardous business in regards to poultry health…the main culprit being “Pullorum disease,” a bacterial infection of poultry transmitted from a hen to her chicks via the eggs. Stock losses were way too large and so, in order to eliminate the disease, programs were implemented by many states to regulate and inspect larger flocks. To coordinate all that work, the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) was started in the early 1930s by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and joint administration was established between APHIS (the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and the state agencies to enforce it.

One of our customers in the great state of Georgia works closely with their commercial poultry industry to keep it healthy for consumers and chicks alike! It’s particularly interesting to realize that events around the Depression and World War II actually led to a boom in the broiler industry (ultimately replacing cotton as their main farm income producer) and that continues today.

Thanks to a set of labs set up around their state, our customer provides services such as disease monitoring and testing, chick quality assurance, and hatchery inspections. Not only do they test chickens but all types of fowl including turkeys, ducks, pigeons and other game birds. Beyond Pullorum, they watch for fowl cholera (often spread by rodents and cats), salmonella (spread by work boots, nest boxes and dust), and chick anemia virus…to name just a few ailments.

According to Purdue University, 50 Billion (yes, Billion – with a ‘B’!) eggs are produced each YEAR in the US! From that, 8 Billion chickens² are also consumed each year!

Now, as you can imagine, large poultry production requires a lot of work for our customer to monitor, test, and inspect chickens and eggs. This also means there is A LOT of paperwork and accompanying test specimens―all which need to be labeled and organized, so they can be easily tracked with the least amount of human error. Their special poultry lab system has integrated the use of thousands and thousands of our 651 White Plastic labels with a cold temperature adhesive, numerous GX430T Thermal Transfer Desktop Printers, as well as many DS6708 1-and-2D Imaging Scanners to facilitate their process in a safe, reliable, and convenient manner!

So the next time you scramble your egg or decorate one for Easter – think about all the work going on behind the scenes to make sure you have safe, healthy poultry products to eat. Of course, it won’t hurt to crack a “yolk”3, once in a while either!


¹ Commercial Hens – Young chickens, before they start laying eggs, are called “pullets.” When they start laying eggs at about 16 to 20 weeks old, they are then called “hens.” Amazingly, egg production starts to decline when hens reach 25 weeks of age so that by 72 weeks, they are slaughtered.

² Broiler Chickens – Meat chickens are most commonly raised in large indoor structures that protect them from predators. They are typically slaughtered at about 6 weeks of age. Unfortunately, large flocks kept in broiler sheds are susceptible to eye and respiratory problems caused by the ammonia pollution from their droppings. They also are prone to leg deformities and heart problems because they grow too fast and can’t handle the fast weight gain. An alternative is to “free range” broilers and allowed them to roam about and grow a bit more slowly. This method tends to produce chickens with better health; they reach slaughter weight at 8 weeks.

³Yolk – Often misspelled as “yoke”, this is the round yellow center of an egg, surrounded by egg white, that is the major source of vitamins, minerals, fat, cholesterol and some protein. (Besides the common theme of farming, how many of you actually caught our references to the types of yokes and yolks?)

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