Roslin Institute partnered with international poultry companies Lohmann and Aviagen in a study to quantify and improve the quality of the eggshell cuticle.
The team from Roslin, working with chemists at the University of Edinburgh, developed techniques that measure cuticle quality using light.
White lights is made up of a spectrum of colors that materials can absorb and reflect from different wavelengths. They measured the amount of white light reflected by eggs’ cuticles using a spectrophotometer.
They also used fluorescent and infrared light that can provide information about the chemical structures of the cuticle and its role as a physical and chemical barrier.
The poultry companies provided the Roslin team with egg samples and related genetic information. They also helped design the instruments so that it can be used to measure cuticle quality on a commercial basis.
Eggs with good quality cuticles are less likely to be infected by E. coli and other micro-organisms than eggs with poor quality cuticles.
Cuticle quality varies due to differences in the genetics or DNA blueprint of each hen. Chickens that lay eggs with high quality cuticle can be bred to produce eggs with better protection against bacteria.