New Jersey Ag News
Culley proactive while running CMC Food
By RICHARD SKELLY
ELIZABETH (Oct. 15, 2016) — Sensing the growing consumer awareness of the value of free-range and Certified Organic eggs, CMC Food owner Michael Culley adapted his family’s egg business to cater to this customer demand.
He’s invested nearly $10 million in new egg processing equipment at a spacious new facility on Kapkowski Road, near the Elizabeth Seaport and Newark Airport.
The neighborhood is busy, with trucks roaring by, some pothole-filled roadways, large warehouses and low planes flying in and out.
On a tour during an open house of his 435,000-square-foot processing facility and sales and administrative offices for customers and friends, on Aug. 12, the Scotch Plains-raised Culley said virtually all the millions of eggs processed at this new facility are organic and cage free.
“We have all our own suppliers, all family farms. Our average farm is between 20,000 and 30,000 layers,” Culley said as visitors gazed at a robotic egg sorter that reads codes on the sides of boxes of eggs and sorts them into neat piles.
“This is brand new technology from Sanovo that has only been installed in the last six weeks,” he added, as employees mind the packaging and sorting equipment in this state-of-the-art processing facility. Occasional broken eggs that fall off moving belts are quickly scooped up and end up in a series of orange buckets strategically located on the processing floor. At his new warehouse and offices, Culley and his team of valued employees have the capability to process 30,000 cases of eggs a week, and the sorting and packaging machines can do 600 cases of eggs in an hour.
“They’re all grade A eggs, all eggs are organic and cage-free, we have combination of cage free white and brown eggs and all organic brown eggs,” he said, “we’re Certified Organic and certified humane, which is part of the cage free movement.”
After being loaded in from special egg carrier trailers, eggs get washed, dried and then scanned with UV light to neutralize harmful bacteria on the shells.
“We use no chlorine rinse because this is an organic facility.” He points to a machine that looks at each egg through a short darkened tunnel, and explains a dirt detector examines the shell while a crack detector picks out minute cracks in the eggs, which are then set aside as defects.
“The egg will not advance if it’s defective in any way and it will not be placed into the containers,” he said. Eggs are put into conventional boxes that consumers see in the store in packs of six, 12 and 24.
“As the eggs come up, they get closed and sealed, they start to case pack them, one dozen at a time, and then they go into our refrigeration room,” Culley said.
The refrigeration room is another impressive part of the facility. About the size of a high school gym, it has automatic doors and is temperature controlled to remain at 45 degrees.
“It’s the biggest cooler in Elizabeth,” he said, noting it can store up to 35,000 cases of finished eggs if need be before they are shipped out on refrigerated trucks.
Each day, conveyer belts are shut down and cleaned. Employees spend about 90 minutes with clean-up, as each machine gets wiped down and sprayed with sterilizers for the next day’s operations.
The palletizer robot reads the codes on the sides of the boxes of eggs and sorts them according to large, extra-large and jumbo.
“This robot saves the labor of two or three employees,” Culley said. “We have about 30 employees in this part of the building.”
CMC Food supplies area Shop-Rite, Walmart, Costco, Key Food, King Cullen, Stop and Shop supermarkets and all CMC Food eggs are found in the organic and cage-free section of dairy aisles. CMC handles other brands, like Eggland and Land O’ Lakes eggs for the cleaning and packaging process, but they also have their own brand, Farmer’s Hen Eggs. The facility also has a spacious kitchen near the sales offices, so employees can gather and taste test various brands of eggs and offer feedback.
Culley said since he took over operations from his father, now retired, “we’ve been trying hard for many years to go into the specialty egg market by handling almost exclusively organic and cage-free.”
CMC’s new facility has 20 truck docks in the back of the warehouse for loading and unloading eggs.
“There’s not that many egg companies in the state. In fact there are three,” Culley said, noting his father started the business in 1984 in Freehold. Culley graduated college in 1989 and came to work for his father in 1991. Prior to starting his own business in 1984, his father worked in the egg business since 1971 in Freehold.
“I came in, my sister and brother-in-law and cousins and nieces and nephews also got involved, so we have about ten family members involved in the business, and we’re now at about 80 employees,” Culley said. “Most of our business is right here in the metropolitan area.”
CMC Food moved into their new facility in Elizabeth on Jan. 1 of this year but delayed having an open house for customers and the general public until August, to work out all the kinks in the state-of-the-art processing technology.
“I spent the first ten years of my career learning the egg business with my father. We spent a lot of time together and he taught me everything openly and helped me develop my own client base,” Culley said.
“In the mid-2000s, he retired, and I’ve been running the business since then. We’ve added new customers and grew year after year and we grew with the demand. In the mid-1990s we started to get into the organic and cage-free business and we started to add farms in the mid-2000s. As the market grew and demand for organic and cage-free eggs grew, we’ve grown with it.”
CMC Food also has a retail store near the front offices of the facility. CMC Food also supports the nearby Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the Family Reach Foundation, which aids families with cancer patients.
“We offer a cash ‘n’ carry business so people who live or work in the neighborhood can come in at any time and we’ll sell them eggs right off the line.”