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Ritchie Feed and Seed Part 3– The Egg Grading Station-Cecil Hicks — Larry Clark

Ritchie Feed and Seed Part 3– The Egg Grading Station-Cecil Hicks — Larry Clark
Thanks go to Andrew Ritchie for these photos.

The Egg Grading Station-Cecil Hicks

Although I liked my job as a pin setter working for Bill Irwin , I looked for another job, a little less wearing (particularly for the sake of my Jeans)  and found it thanks to Cecil Hicks who operated (as far as I know) the only egg grading facility in town. 

This establishment occupied the basement (eggs) and one other floor, above Ritchie’s (chicks), known as the “brooder”.

A very commonplace door, adjacent to the Ritchie loading platform led into a cavernous room with two sets of stairs, one leading down to the egg grading station and the other, up to the brooder. At the bottom of the stairs, one turned right for buying or selling eggs, or straight ahead to exit the building. Perhaps to enjoy the sound of the rushing water or just to enjoy the view and let your senses react to the noise of the disturbed waters. Or you are just plain lost!

It was a long corridor to reach the door to the egg sorting room-the office on the left and once inside you were faced with an almost square room (20’ approx.) with a large heavy doored enclosure in the right corner. 

This was a refrigerated room for storing eggs after they had been graded and actually the main room was a little cool. On the left side was the huge grading machine which took up most of the wall (except for a door to access the office and the working area of the machine).

A not unusual start to  Saturday morning would have Cecil begin candling the eggs and placing them on the machine according to the following criteria  (Perhaps not the same as now) from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency:-

ReceivingEggs are received and held in a refrigerated holding area which is separate from the area where the eggs are graded.


Eggs pass over a bright candling light by means of a conveyor that transports and, at the same time, rolls the eggs. The light makes the internal contents of the egg visible allowing a determination of internal defects to be made (i.e. blood spots, meat spots, rot, poor quality yolk, air cell size, etc.) By rolling the eggs as they pass over the candling light, the entire outer surface of the egg can be seen by the grader.

The light makes cracks in the shell visible (some cracks are very difficult to see until candled) and also allows dirt, stains, or excessively rough shelled eggs to be seen. By this process, the candler can determine whether each egg meets the grade requirements for Canada Grade A. Defective eggs, leaking eggs and rejects are removed by the candler. This was done one egg at a time by Cecil (although he could hold at least a half dozen eggs in each hand, switching them around one handed as he placed them up to the light. (there was a bucket conveniently placed under the light position for rejects and mishaps)!

The Canadian Food Agency Guidelines

The eggs that meet Canada A grade requirements proceed to the scales to be weighed.


Eggs are weighed and sorted according to size category for Canada A grade eggs (jumbo size, extra large size, large size, medium size, small size and peewee size). Each of the sizes has a weight requirement that must be met.


Eggs are packed in containers according to their grade and size (if

Canada A grade).


Eggs are stored at an appropriate temperature in the graded cooler until they are loaded into a vehicle for transport to the retail location.

The following is an example of a grading machine although this is much smaller (an example of a larger machine at the start of the video but still smaller than the one we used). 

Back to the action:

I would have tuned the radio (probably CFRA or CKOY, no CJOH then) to listen to the Cisco Kid (Pancho), the Lone Ranger, or Roy and Dale.

As the eggs came tumbling out (gently), I placed them in the appropriate trays, stacking and storing them as the day progressed. 

In addition to the grades mentioned (I suppose not in accordance with current directives) there were Cracks, B and C eggs separated from the others.

Cracks-as advertised

B-slightly darker yolks.

C-definitely darker and might have blood spots (safe for use in cooking)

Next is the operation of the grader!

This next photo is somewhat the shape but Cecil’s grader was larger and more substantially built.

From time to time adventurous ladies (usually older/regular customers) came in to buy eggs. Usually in search of one or the other of the last 3 grades mentioned, the exception being those that wanted white eggs. 

The most popular chicken breeds that only lay white eggs include the White Leghorn, Andalusian, Polish chicken, AnconaEgyptian Fayoumis, Hamburg and California White, with the Leghorn by far the most popular.
Most eggs, in days gone by were brown, as they were produced by local farmers who had to rely on a chicken that not only produced eggs but could be sold as meat chickens when the laying days were over-there is very little meat on a Leghorn. A farmer would bring in eggs in a variety of containers with no distinction as to colour. We made no effort to separate the colours unless we were asked by the aforementioned customer, “do you have any white eggs”. No difference in price for this service.I worked in a confined, cool environment, doing a somewhat boring, repetitious job but enjoyed the characters/customers that came in to buy eggs, and of course, chat. I knew most of the farmers in the area but have since lost most of those memories.From time to time Cecil would load eggs in the truck and make deliveries to local grocery stores and/or restaurants.Finally, would come the end of an eggstraordinary day

This is my personal gasp at the past!

Larry Clark

Related reading

Tales from Ritchie Feed and Seed — Larry Clark part 2

Tales From Ritchie’s Feed and Seed — Larry Clark — Story 1

Memories of Ritchie Feed and Seed Carleton Place