Ever Wonder About Eggs?

Have you ever been told that brown cows make chocolate milk? Well, let me tell you something about brown eggs and white eggs. The color of the chicken does determine the color of the egg, and the color of the eggshell does not determine the nutritional value of the egg. I believe there may be more people like me who did not realize the true value of the egg. I would like to share with you a little information I learned that helped me understand the value of an egg.   

The simple fact is that white eggs are laid by hens with white feathers and white ear lobes, and brown eggs are laid by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. The size of an egg is determined by the age of the hen. The eggs get larger as the hen ages. Eggs are graded and sized by their weight and appearance. Below is a table explaining the grade and size of eggs.

Grade of Eggs Size of Eggs
Grade A These eggs have the best appearance. The white and yolk of the egg is firm and thick. The yolks are round. Small Medium 1.5 oz 1.75 oz
Grade AA These eggs are like the Grade A eggs but the white and yolk are “reasonably” firm. Large Extra Large 2 oz 2.25 oz
Grade B These eggs will have stained eggshells. The white and yolk of the egg is not firm, and the yolk is less round. These eggs are usually not sold by carton but are used for egg products such as liquid eggs, dry eggs, etc. Jumbo 2.5 oz

Young chickens are called pullets until they start laying eggs, then they become a hen. Here is an interesting bit of information I read. A pullet’s first attempt at laying an egg may not have a yolk. This is sometimes called a dwarf, wind, or a fart egg. This first attempted egg is usually small in size, round and looks like a grape or marble.

Now that we know what determines the eggshell’s color, I want to talk some about the value of the egg. You may have noticed that brown eggs cost more than white eggs in the supermarket. It is not because the eggs are better for you or higher in nutritional value. It is because the hens that lay brown eggs are larger and require more feed and a larger living space. These factors raise the cost of production, which raise the cost of the eggs. Also, the nutritional value of eggs is not determined by the color of the eggshell. It is determined by what the hen is fed. An example would be if an egg is labeled organic or enriched with omega 3, the hen would have been fed food enriched with omega 3 or fed organic products. Some believe that the flavor of the brown egg is better than the flavor of the white egg. Again, the color of the eggshell does not determine the eggs flavor; it is what the hen is fed that effects the flavor of the egg.

Another component that determines the value of an egg is the way the hens are handled and housed. There are several approaches to handling and housing hens so they can lay eggs. Most eggs in the US are from hens that are caged. The hens are kept in cages in a climate-controlled building. There could be four to six hens per cage. This does not allow much space for the hens to move or spread their wings. The cages are designed to keep the hens in a clean environment by allowing the waste to fall below the cage. The eggs are removed by a conveyer built to be moved to a location for cleaning and packaging. The hens do not get outdoors at all. Most consumers feel the caged method is a cruel way to produce eggs and will not purchase caged eggs. Then there are the cage-free eggs. Cage-free hens are also kept in a climate-controlled building; however, they are free to roam the floor of the building. This freedom allows the hens to practice some of their natural behaviors such as laying eggs in a nest, perching, and spreading their wings. They rarely get outdoors. Consumers feel this is not perfect but is a little better than the caged method. The free-range eggs are like the cage-free eggs, but the hens have access to the outdoors. The time outdoors is limited, and the hens are confined to a specific location and not free to roam. The preferred egg is the pastured egg. This is most likely a method used by the local small farmer. The hens are roosting in the hen house at night, will lay their eggs in a nest, and roam the pasture by day pecking and searching for food, which allows the hen to be in a more natural state. These eggs could be considered organic.

The supermarket will offer a wide variety of eggs. Eggs that are labeled by grade, size, and type. This blog is not to try to convince you to quit buying eggs from the supermarket. I just want you to know the facts and maybe take some time to look at the label on the egg carton and understand what is behind the label. This is some bonus information I learned during my research. On the egg carton near the expiration date, there is a three-digit number. This number tells you the day the eggs were washed, graded, and packed. For example, if the eggs were processed on January 1, the number would be 001 and on December 31, it would be 365.  

One of the many things I have learned while working here is buying local is better. So, I would encourage you to search for a local farmer who sells eggs and try them out. I have, and there is a difference. But, if you cannot buy local, I hope this information helps the next time you shop for eggs. As always, check us out on social media, keep coming back to our website, or stop by the office. It is always nice to meet new people or get to visit with those I know.

Environmental Conservation Organization

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