As we prepare to celebrate a traditional British Eastertide, the shops are awash with chocolate eggs in all shapes and sizes. So it seems appropriate to celebrate the role of the humble load cell in producing both real eggs and their sugary cousins.
First, the chicken egg
We British love our eggs, and we consumed an incredible 12.9billion of them in 2017. That’s 197 eggs per head of population! The UK is 86% self-sufficient in eggs, and the retail market is worth an estimated £984m per year.
With such demand for their products, egg producers are constantly looking to improve their efficiency whilst maintaining standards of welfare. A leading free range egg supplier has installed wireless load cells into the chicken feed storage silos at their 150 egg producers’ farms. By constantly monitoring the contents of each poultry feed silo by weight, the company can remotely assess when the feed needs replenishing – and the eggs need collecting.
This information allows the suppler company to schedule vehicle deliveries and collections more efficiently, creating savings and reducing the impact of the environment too.
Making the grade
Egg producers have long graded eggs according to their weight, using load cells to weigh each egg and grade them into user-defined sizes. The secret of these machines is not so much in the weighing as the methods by which they roll and turn the eggs into the optimum position for weighing. Once in position, each egg is accurately weighed and then separated on its onward journey to the correct grade collecting shelf. Due to the potential for breakages and dirt, any load cells used must be washable to ensure ongoing hygiene.
Mini choccy eggs
If, like us, you’re a fan of mini chocolate Easter eggs but are often disappointed by how few seem to be in a packet, then sadly, load cells have a part in that too. Small sized foodstuffs can be packed using multi-head weighing and packaging systems, that distribute from a central hopper and use multiple chutes to accurately weigh the product. The precise weight of product required then drops down into the packaging area. So, you always get the same weight of chocolate eggs in every bag. The same system is used to ensure you get an even distribution of different coloured eggs in your bag!
Helping monitor wild bird incubation patterns
Load cells are also used to study incubation of bird eggs in the wild. Traditionally, a lever device was inserted into the nesting area which triggered when the parent bird returned to incubate the eggs.
Load cells are much less intrusive, and can be placed under a platform in a nesting box long before the breeding birds arrive to build their nest. The load cell detects and monitors the presence of the parent bird, enabling researchers to create patterns of incubation over the entire laying to hatching timeframe. The difference in weight between male and female birds also builds a record of whether the male or female bird does the most incubation in species where both parents take on the duties.
Easter egg packaging
And finally, if you ever thought that the larger chocolate Easter eggs were a triumph of packaging over contents, you’re right. A study by consumer campaigners Which? compared the packaging to chocolate ratio of the top 10 best-selling Easter eggs in the UK.
- The highest ratio was an egg weighing 418g with packaging weighing 152g. That’s more than 36% of its weight in cardboard, foil and plastic.
- The best ratio was for one of the cheepest eggs (sorry, couldn’t resist), with just under 18.8% of its weight made up of cardboard (and recyclable) packaging.
The good news is that the plastic protective cover in most Easter egg packaging is PET 1, so it can be recycled, along with the cardboard box and any (clean) foil wrapping scrunched into a ball. And yes, load cells are used in recycling collection and sorting plants – see our blog on this from last year.
For details of our full range of load cells, see our Shop, or call us with your specific requirements and we’ll provide you with egg-actly what you require!