Every American eats about 220 eggs annually, and many more are consumed around the world. Eggs are extremely versatile because you can make egg salad, deviled eggs, scrambled eggs, and many other delicious dishes.

Color

Eggs come in a variety of colors depending on the hen’s genetics. One eggshell color does not have more nutritional value than another. A popular myth is that eggs that have darker colored yolks are more nutritious, but that is not the case. Differences in yolk color are caused by differences in the hen’s diet.

Size

Eggs come in a variety of different sizes. Many different factors determine the size of the eggs that hens lay. One of the main factors is the size of the hen, as larger hens generally lay bigger eggs. Another factor determining the size of eggs is the hen’s age, as more mature hens tend to lay larger eggs. Hens that are fed a diet high in protein and fatty acids also usually lay bigger eggs.

When it comes to the eggs that you find in a United States grocery store, the size of the egg is determined by the weight of a dozen eggs. While you will have to look in a specialty store to find peewee eggs, a dozen must weigh between 15 and 17 ounces. Small eggs must weigh between 18 and 21 ounces, while medium eggs must weigh between 21 and 24 ounces. Large eggs need to weigh between 24 and 27 ounces, while extra-large eggs must weigh between 27 and 30 ounces. Eggs weighing more than that are considered jumbo eggs.

Habitat

Many different words are used to describe how chickens that lay the eggs are cared for by farmers. More than 90 percent of all eggs sold in the United States come from hens kept in cages smaller than a sheet of copy paper. Cage-free chickens are not kept in a cage, but they can still be tightly packed inside a building. In fact, most are raised in buildings where they have about the same amount of space as a sheet of copy paper. Free-range chickens are given the option of going outside, but in the United States, there are no laws about the amount of space that a chicken is given or the quality of food they find outside. Pasture-fed chickens are allowed to graze in a pasture where they can often find bugs and worms to eat. Mobile pastured chickens utilize chicken tractors as a mobile home, allowing them to move around to different pastures and fields, which affords them access to fresh foraging grounds. Another term that consumers may find on eggs is “organic.” This means that the chicken laying the egg did not receive any hormones and was raised on organic food. Hens laying eggs that are sold as omega 3-enriched are fed a food that is high in omega 3, such as flaxseed.

Nutritional Value

Eggs are a  great source of many nutrients that you need in your diet. A large egg, the most commonly sold in stores in the United States, contains 70 calories. You are getting six grams of protein that helps to build and repair tissue and forms an important part of hormones and enzymes. An egg also is a great source of B vitamins, as one egg contains about 15 percent of the amount of riboflavin you need daily, about 9 percent of the amount of Vitamin B12 you need, and about 5 percent of the pantothenic acid you need. They are also a good source of Vitamin A, as each egg contains about 6 percent of your daily needs. While eggs sometimes take a bad rap for raising a person’s cholesterol, the truth is that they only contain 62 percent of the amount of cholesterol a healthy individual needs daily.

Egg Quality

Farmers who sell their eggs to large retailers that deliver them to your local grocery store must grade their eggs on a scale from AA to B. Those graded AA must have a thick white surrounding the yolk with a small amount of thin white beyond that. The yolk must be elevated. Those graded A have more equal amounts of thick and thin white. The yolk must be round and elevated. Many egg containers that you buy at the grocery store contain both AA and A eggs. In order to be sold as AA eggs in the United States, however, at least 10 of each dozen must receive the AA grade. While B eggs seldom make it into the retail chain, these eggs have a thin, watery yolk, and the yolk is oval instead of round. The best eggs come from chickens with a healthy, nutritional diet, especially high in calcium.

Transporting Eggs

From the farm to the table, it is essential that eggs be stored properly. When a hen in a barn lays an egg, it rolls onto a belt. At a certain time of day, a farm worker turns on the belt, bringing the eggs to a centralized location where they are washed with an organic solution and a solution designed to stop any germs. The eggs are then weighed and examined to make sure that they meet quality standards. Then, the eggs are divided into boxes by size, with each box containing about 300 eggs. Then, refrigerated trucks pick up the eggs and take them to a centralized location where they are placed in the cartons you buy at the grocery store. Eggs should never exceed air temperature of 45 degrees fahrenheit. Each egg is carefully placed in its slot with the large part of the egg facing up. This helps form an air pocket around the egg, keeping the yolk in place while it travels to your grocery store shelf and to your home. Most eggs go from the hen to the grocery store in less than 24 hours.

Eggs are a cheap, nutritious addition to many meals. Many people choose to raise chickens at home. Now that you know what some of the terms mean, you can make better choices when you are at the egg case. Additionally, you can choose to support the local economy by buying those eggs. Your family will love them scrambled, baked, boiled, or fixed in so many different ways.

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