How to Buy Eggs: What Do the Labels on the Carton Mean?
Mar 22

How to Buy Eggs: What Do the Labels on the Carton Mean?

By Catarina Marchioli, LMP Intern

White vs Brown Eggs 1

The color of the egg does not affect the nutrients inside! Brown eggs, although occasionally more expensive, hold the same protein packed goodness as a white egg. The color of an egg depends on the hen that laid it with no significance. The color of the yolk may vary too, and this is dependent on the type of feed given to the hen. If the feed contains green plants or yellow corn, the yolk tends to be darker. This also has no effect on the nutrient content of the egg.

Egg Grading 2,3

Egg grading is a voluntary process carried out by the USDA. There are three categories and egg can be placed in, AA, A, or B. This is determined by the cleanliness and shape of the shell, the color of the yolk, the thickness and consistency of egg whites, and the size of the air cell within the egg. The air cell is an air pocket that develops, increasing in size over time, inside the egg die to evaporation of water. Grades AA and A are typically sold in stores. Grade B eggs are often used in food service for baked goods. No eggs should be purchased with a broken shell. All eggs last about a month with refrigeration. Cloudy egg whites are typically a result of very fresh eggs.

AA eggs have:

  • A clean, normal shaped shell
  • Thick, firm whites
  • An air cell that is 1/8 inch or less in size

A eggs have:

  • A clean, normal shaped shell
  • Thick, fairly firm egg whites
  • An air cell that is 3/16 inch in size

B eggs have:

  • An abnormally shaped and possibly stained shell
  • Comparably watery/runny whites
  • An air cell that is 3/16 inch in size

Cage Free vs Free Range 4

Cage free hens are not raised in a cage, and are able to roam an enclosed space. This does not mean that the hen has access to the outdoors. Free range, as defined by the USDA, have access to the outdoors, however there are no regulations for the amount of time spent outdoors or the quality of the land.

American Humane Certification 5

The American Humane Certification is a voluntary certification, but ensures that the animals associated with specific animal products were raised and treated in a humane way. As far as eggs are concerned, this sets standards and guidelines for hens raised cage free and free range. Cage free hens should have enough space to comfortably stretch their wings, while having unlimited access to food and water. Free range hens also must have unlimited access to food and water, but must also have an eight hour minimum of outside exposure daily. This means that these farms must be located in a climate where the weather would permit this activity for a majority of the year. The land that these hens have access to must have artificial or natural shade, and the land must be covered in a good amount of living vegetation.

Eggs are very versatile when it comes to food, and even decoration this time of year! Click here for an egg dye recipe that uses natural plant-based ingredients.

Want to dye your eggs and eat them too? This delicious quiche recipe is a veggie filled crowd pleaser.