Eggs are not as simple as their sound. There are many types of eggs based on colors, sizes, and the raising methods of the poultry.
These factors contribute to the labels you see at the market, and perhaps your eating decision.
Official organizations like the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) creates standards to categorize the different type of eggs. Here are several egg types based on the categorizations.
1. Egg Types Based on Grades
USDA has a measurement called “grade shield” to determine the egg types. Eggs from farms that go through USDA inspection will have these grades on the egg cartons. Here are the official descriptions of the grades:
AA eggs have the best quality. They have perfectly round yolks, without blood spots and other defects. The whites are thick and firm, while the shells are clean and smooth.
AA eggs have good, round yolk, without defects. The whites are firm but may not be as firm as the AA eggs. The shells are clean and smooth, without cracks or other damages.
The B eggs have the lowest quality, but still good for food manufacturing. The yolks are flatter or wider, and the whites are thinner.
The shells don’t show any damages or cracks, but they may be stained. These eggs are used in mass usages, such as for frozen or dried products.
2. Egg Types Based on Shell Colors
Shell colors are probably the simplest but most intriguing egg facts for many people. Some even believe that eggs with white shells are better than brown ones.
The truth is: all eggs pack the same amount of nutrients, including protein. The color of the shell does not determine an egg’s nutritional worth.
Different shell colors come from the pigments carried by the hens, which you can tell from their ears. Hens with white ears produce white eggs, while the brown ones produce darker eggs.
The chickens’ oviducts carry the pigments to their eggs, creating the colors (although dark brown pigmentations happen outside their bodies).
Brown eggs are often slightly larger than white eggs. Farmers feed brown chickens more to create larger eggs, adding more costs in the egg production.
3. Egg Types Based on Sizes
How do you determine “small,” “medium,” and “large” eggs? The USDA has egg grading levels based on their sizes. Each size yields different amounts of nutrition. The standard egg sizes are:
Small eggs weigh 510 grams (18 ounces). They contain 50 grams of calories, 5 grams protein, and 3.5 grams fat.
Medium eggs weigh 595 grams (21 ounces). They contain 60 grams of calories, 6 grams protein, and 4 grams fat.
Large eggs weigh 680 grams (24 ounces). They contain 70 grams of calories, 6 grams protein, and 5 grams fat.
Extra-large eggs weigh 765 grams (27 ounces). They contain 80 grams of calories, 7 grams protein, and 5 grams fat.
Jumbo eggs weigh 850 grams (30 ounces). They contain 90 grams of calories, 6 grams fat, and 8 grams protein.
You can use this guide in recipes. The standard nutrition numbers are also useful in creating healthy food plans.
4. Egg Types Based on Carton Labels
When you are shopping for eggs, you will see various labels on their cartons. These labels inform everything you need to know about the origins of the eggs.
They are useful for consumers who are conscious about where their foods come from.
Typical labels you will see on egg cartons include:
a. USDS-Certified Organic
Organic eggs with this label mean they come from organic chicken farms that follow the USDA standards.
The organic standards are strict, and farmers who want to label their eggs “organic” must undergo routine inspection.
b. UEP-Certified Regular
This label means the eggs come from farms that use scientific and reliable methods. The label applies to eggs from both caged and cage-free chickens.
c. American Humane Certified
Eggs with this label come from farms that follow the animal welfare standards. The auditing process is conducted by certified, reliable, third-party auditors.
d. Free Range
Free Range is not a strict label, but it usually refers to eggs from chickens that have outdoor access on the farm.
Like Free Range, Pasture-raised is not a standardized label. It may refer to eggs from chickens with some access to pasture.
f. Enriched with Omega 3
Eggs with this label come from chickens that are fed with special diets, such as flaxseed and canola. The diet increases the Omega 3 level in each egg, from 100 mg to 600 mg.
Vegetarian-fed means the chickens are fed with plant-based diets. This label does not specifically refer to caged or cage-free chickens.
This label means the eggs are sterilized using the FDA-approved heating process. The results are pathogen-free eggs, perfect for individuals with a compromised immune system.
5. Cage-free VS Organic Eggs: Which Ones Are Better?
The debate of cage-free VS organic eggs has happened since consumers become more conscious about their food choices.
Both labels seem like ideal choices, and consumers don’t mind paying extra to buy eggs with these labels. However, some labels may come from the USDA certification program, while others are less standardized.
The “Cage-free” and “Organic” labels can be bewildering. Imagine seeing those labels on different egg cartons.
You want to pay for the most ideal eggs, but only have enough money to commit to one label. Are organic eggs better? Or should you try the eggs from chickens that are free to roam?
Labels like “Cage-free” and “Free-range” don’t always mean that the chickens have an ideal living condition. Some farms do not constrain them in enclosed cages, but the chickens may be kept in overcrowded barns.
“Organic” label means the chickens do not consume sewage sludge, pesticides, animal byproducts, and growth hormone. However, it does not reflect the treatment toward the chickens.
The best option is to buy eggs from farmers you trust, such as at a local supplier or farmer’s market. You can also buy eggs with labels from reliable third parties, such as “Certified Humane” or “Animal Welfare Approved.”
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Eggs come in different sizes, colors, and quality standards. You can choose the best types of eggs by looking at the labels and physical characteristics.
Don’t forget to look into each label to find pathogen-free eggs or the ones from environmentally-conscious sources.