Newspaper article The Florida Times Union
Company Scrambles to Get Eggs to Your Table; from a Child with a Wagon and an Egg Route to the Head of a National Poultry Organization, the Head of Dixie Egg Co. Knows the Industry Inside and Out
Byline: MARK BASCH
Jacques Klempf was born into the egg industry.
His father Edward, founder of the family-owned Dixie Egg Co., gave Jacques an early start about 40 years ago.
"He thought it would be a good idea if I had an egg route," he said. So when Klempf was about 8 or 9 years old, he began selling eggs door-to-door in his Jacksonville neighborhood from his little red wagon.
Klempf is still selling eggs today, but on a much larger scale than he did as a boy. He's now president of Jacksonville-based Dixie Egg, which sells more than 700 million eggs a year throughout the Southeast. And it takes a lot more work than just pulling a wagon around the neighborhood.
"Most people don't understand what it takes to get an egg to your table," said Klempf.
Dixie Egg has a refrigerated warehouse and distribution center at its Westside headquarters building. But the egg production takes place at company facilities in Georgia.
The production is technology-intensive at Dixie Egg's plant in Blackshear, Ga. "The eggs are never even touched by hands," said Klempf.
Machines in Blackshear wash the eggs and sort them by grade into the proper packages. The plant produces about 360,000 eggs an hour, eight hours a day, five days a week.
But before technology takes over in Blackshear, the process actually starts with hens laying eggs at company farms in South Georgia. Dixie Egg owns about 1.5 million birds itself and also receives eggs from a million other hens owned by farmers in the area.
Caring for 1.5 million hens is also a complicated process. Dixie Egg buys baby chicks at one day old and begins feeding and raising them. It takes 18 to 20 weeks for the chicks to get big enough to begin laying eggs, but those are small eggs that are not suitable for sale to consumers. It takes until 32 or 33 weeks for the hens to start laying the larger eggs you buy in the supermarket.
At that age, the hens are typically laying one egg a day. But once they reach 65 weeks old, they get a break.
"We send them on vacation for a little while," said Klempf.
Basically, he explained, by altering their diet with less fat content, the hens are less energetic and end up spending more time resting than laying during this six-week vacation. …