An egg carton can tell you a lot about where its eggs came from. But there are also some misconceptions about types of eggs and which ones are best for you.
Ask someone how they like their eggs, and they’ll probably reply with answers like “scrambled” or “over easy.” But what about while shopping for eggs? At the store, egg producers real you in with buzzwords like free-range and cage-free. There’s brown eggs, jumbo eggs, and eggs with extra omega-3s.
All in all, eggs are much more complicated than they lead themselves on to be and they go through a lot before any of us ever get to decide how we want to cook them. A seemingly simple food comes in several shapes, sizes, grades, and colors.
The process of grading eggs is kind of like a beauty pageant (but for eggs of course). Before they make it to supermarkets, eggs are inspected and graded by state agencies. Companies can also go a step further and pay to have the USDA grade them. When you see the egg grade within a USDA shield symbol on the carton, that’s what that means. Either way, there are three grades:
- Grade AA eggs: These eggs have the best appearance, with firm and thick eggs whites and round yolks with little to no defects.
- Grade A eggs: These are the same as grade AA eggs, except the egg whites are only considered “reasonably firm.”
- Grade B eggs: The shells might be stained. The whites aren’t as firm, the yolks less round. You typically won’t see these in cartons at the store. They’re often used in liquid eggs products where they don’t have to look as presentable.
Do egg sizes matter?
Egg sizes range from small to jumbo. The larger they are, the more liquid they contain. While using a medium egg in place of a large egg in a recipe isn’t a big deal, it might make a difference when cooking a dish that calls for several eggs, such as breakfast casserole.
While the exact weight can vary slightly, here’s how the USDA classifies egg sizes
|Liquid per Egg||1.5 oz.||1.75 oz.||2 oz.||2.25 oz.||2.5 oz.|
|Liquid per Dozen||18 oz.||21 oz.||24 oz.||27 oz.||30 oz.|
Nutrition per egg
Different types of chickens lay different colored eggs — from bluish tones to creamy pinks and even dark brown (and yes, green eggs are real, too). The two colors widely available in stores are white eggs and brown eggs. While most people assume brown eggs are healthier and organic, that’s not the case. They were just hatched from a different breed of chicken, and they are priced higher because that type of chicken is usually larger and more expensive to raise.
Conventional cage eggs
These eggs come from hens that live in climate-controlled barns in cages about 6-7 per cage. Each hen has about 60 to 80 square inches of space.
These eggs come from hens that have more room to roam, about 140 square feet per hen — generally in some kind of room or open area. They are still somewhat contained.
These hens are usually outdoors (or have some indoor-outdoor access). They have more of an opportunity to forage freely versus eating from automated feed and water lines.
Organic and nutritionally-enriched eggs
Organic eggs come from hens that eat natural feed, and they’re usually cage-free or free range. Naturally-enriched eggs come from hens that are given extra omega-3s in their diet.
Eggs that are peeled and packaged, liquid eggs, powdered eggs — these are all examples or processed egg products.