Eggs are a source of dietary controversy. For years, doctors advised patients to avoid eating the chicken fruits due to high cholesterol content. However, nutritionists argued for the high-quality protein and supply of vitamins eggs provide. In the past few weeks, a study evaluated the effect of a high-egg diet on people with diabetes. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no difference in blood lipids, blood sugar, or inflammatory markers at the end of the study. Yay! Eggs are back on the menu! But now, you just need to understand the egg labels!
Have you been to the store and looked at all the egg labels? What does all that mean, anyway? Are there any differences? Let me Egg-spound on that!
Graded Egg Labels
No. Grade A doesn’t mean your eggs are smarter than their peers! But what exactly do those grades mean? Usually, supermarkets sell grade A and AA eggs. AA is the highest quality, with rounded, firm yolks, and shells that you want to bring home to meet the parents. Grade A eggs may have a defect or two in their eggshells but are still perfect for home use. B-grade eggs are like B-rate movies – they have a very specific audience. They become powdered or liquid eggs. Consumers find the watery whites and stained shells unappetizing, so supermarkets rarely sell whole, B Graded eggs.
My Yolk’s Bigger than Your Yolk!
That brings us to egg size. What are the size differences in eggs? Egg size grades vary by country.
In the US, eggs receive a size grade anywhere from Jumbo to Peewee. Most standard recipes call for large eggs. Thanks to Wikipedia for this handy conversion chart explaining egg sizes, recipe yields, and egg weights. If you live outside the US, be sure to visit the article for chicken egg size grades in other countries.
|Size||Minimum mass per egg||Cooking Yield (Volume)|
|Jumbo||70.9 g||2.5 oz.|
|Very Large or Extra-Large (XL)||63.8 g||2.25 oz.||56 ml (4 tbsp)|
|Large (L)||56.7 g||2 oz.||46 ml (3.25 tbsp)|
|Medium (M)||49.6 g||1.75 oz.||43 ml (3 tbsp)|
|Small (S)||42.5 g||1.5 oz.|
|Peewee||35.4 g||1.25 oz.|
|Table courtesy Wikipedia|
Are Brown Eggs Healthier than White Eggs?
I grew up on a chicken farm. Our farm hens laid eggs in a variety of color. Some of them even appeared blue-green! The brown eggs came from our Rhode Island Reds. The Ameraucana laid blue eggs. Those birds that interbred laid a greenish color egg. White hens lay white eggs.
However, nutritionists confirm that all these eggs have the same nutritional content and flavor. If you find one egg brand tastes better than another brand, that difference has more to do with the conditions the chicken lived in than the eggs color. Color comes from chicken breed and doesn’t impact the egg’s nutrition, taste, or shell quality. HINT: Farm-raised eggs taste better because small farmers usually feed their chickens better than large chicken farms. I think our local eggs are egg-cellent.
NOTE: My friend, Dr. Edward Mc Keown, a college professor with 30+ years of experience in food safety and hospitality management, says that he prefers brown eggs even though he recognizes “they are the same nutritionally and structurally… This may have to do with us eating with our eyes before we actually eat.”
Do egg labels indicate how a farmer raised a chicken?
Yes! Absolutely, they do – sorta. At least, they are supposed to. And, remember, how a chicken is raised impacts egg flavor and quality.
I always look for the “Humane Certified” seals on my eggs. It fills in the gaps that the USDA misses. For example, while the USDA doesn’t specify space requirements for “Free-Range” or “Pasture-raised,” Humane Farm Animal Care (who backs the Humane Certified Seals), defines “Cage-free” as 1.5 square ft per hen along with other humane treatment requirements. “Free-Range” Humane Certification requires two square- foot per bird, outdoors, and requires “pasture-raised” raised hens to have 104 square-foot per bird in the actual pasture. Additionally, in all cases, Humane Farm Animal Care prohibits farmers starving birds to induce molting. The USDA remains silent on this.
If you want to know how well your favorite organic brand treats their chickens, check out Cornucopia’s egg score-card.
By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post. I am not affiliated with Humane Farm Animal Care. I simply believe that animals used for food purposes deserve humane treatment. This article isn’t meant to sway you one way or another, but most articles on egg labels do not mention humane certifications and I wanted to ensure my blog post included it.
Organic eggs mean the producer fed organic feed and chickens have access to the outdoors. However, nothing in the USDA guidelines dictates how much access or what constitutes “outdoors.” Some manufacturers only give small screened-in porch access. Some factory farms contain as many as 200,000 “organic” hens in a single building.
Producers feed these chickens only non-GMO feed.
Cage-free hens aren’t truly cage-free raised. They are not required to have outdoor access at all. Also, again, the USDA doesn’t stipulate the number of hens limited to an area.
Free Range Eggs
The USDA stipulates that these hens must continually have access to outdoor areas during laying season. However, the USDA doesn’t specify what “outdoors” access means. It also doesn’t dictate the quantity of space per chicken. So, some producers only have small screened in porches for chickens with less than 1/2 foot per bird.
The USDA doesn’t regulate pasture-raised definitions.
No Added Hormones
This superfluous information doesn’t mean a dang thing! Seriously! The USDA doesn’t (and never did) allow hormone use in chickens. This egg label is just padding.
No Antibiotics Used
Means what it says. This chicken never received antibiotics.
Farmgirl opinion here. Chickens are NOT vegetarians. Chickens eat bugs. A vegetarian diet is not a chicken’s natural diet. Generally, this means they aren’t fed products with ground up animals. However, if a chicken has pasture access, they eat bugs.
Hopefully, this article helps you develop informed egg-purchasing decisions and answers your boiling questions. I feel food labeling is an important topic, but I am not an expert. I am just sharing information I found from my online research because I thought some of you may be interested.
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