Growing up on a farm, the only thing we needed to decide was if we were going to buy Americana chickens (that made blue eggs) or a particular breed of chicken layer hens. Occasionally we would change it up for a larger egg with Muscovy ducks.
It was not until moving to the city that I realized how many more choices I had at my grocery store. Now I had to decide between the conventional white, brown egg, and all of the sizes (small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo). I also had the choice of “free range,” “cage-free,” and “organic.”
Little did I know things would be so confusing! If you aren’t able to raise your own chickens, then you’ll need to learn a bit to get the eggs you want from your local market. When doing so, it’s helpful to consider a few points as described by The United States Department of Agriculture.
1. Grade the eggs. The highest quality egg with the USDA stamp is the Grade AA. The grading system is based on several factors such as the condition of the shell, appearance inside the egg called the air cell, the albumen, yolk and freshness. The next level is Grade A then B which is sold mostly to a commercial businesses such as restaurants or bakers.
2. Size and color. There are Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium, and Small eggs. The size varies depending on the breed of hen, what she was eating, her age, weight, and environmental conditions. The color white/brown is based on the breed only.
3. Choose the type of egg. Farm raised, cage free and free range tells the consumer how the hens were raised. Generally, standard white eggs are raised in a big factory with minimal restrictions. Organic eggs have no chemicals, animal products, hormones or antibiotics used in the feed. For more info see video from the Happy Egg Company below.
4. Consider cost. The price will vary depending on the breed of hen, the feed, and the entire process to market. Buy your eggs according to the health needs of you and your family. Some have less cholesterol than others or more vitamins and nutrients.
Conventional: Hens live in stacked cages, usually four to eight chickens to a cage with a minimum of 67 square inches of floor space per chicken.
Free Range: Hens live outdoors or have limited access to the outdoors.
Organic: Hens are fed vegetables grown without any antibiotics, growth hormones or commercial fertilizers.
Cage Free: Hens live on the floor of a barn rather than the outdoors or in a cage.
Omega 3: Hens are fed a diet containing ground flax seed, which produces eggs containing slightly more polyunsaturated fatty acids.
1. Fill a bowl or pan with water to at least an inch above the height of an egg. Place the egg gently into the bottom of the bowl full of water.
2. An egg that lies flat or at an angle at the bottom; these eggs are still fresh. Eggs that stand straight up on the bottom of the bowl are older, but still safe to eat; use them in baked goods or for boiled eggs.
3. Throw out any egg that floats to the top of the water, as it has most likely gone bad.