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With the Easter holiday coming up this weekend, we have a feeling many people will be purchasing eggs this week. Purchasing eggs isn’t as easy as it used to be, though! Organic, free range, cage free, AA, A…what does it all mean? And does any of it really matter? Here, in time for Easter, is our cheat sheet on everything you want to know about chicken eggs…but were afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid, really…we’ll make it easy!
Organic vs Non-Organic Eggs – Eggs that are certified organic are produced through organic means. Chicken are fed with organic food. The chickens must also live in a cage-free environment and have access to the outdoors. These chickens are also antibiotic-free (exceptions are granted for infectious outbreaks in the flock). In addition to maintaining the organic standards of chicken and eggs, for an egg to be considered organic the care of the chicken must meet high animal welfare standards.
Free Range vs Cage Free Eggs – These labels are the most problematic when it comes to eggs. “Free range” conjures up visions of happy chickens frolicking amongst the green grasses. The reality is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no standards to dictate the use of the term “free range,” allowing egg producers to freely label any egg as a free range egg. In fact, to qualify as free range, a chicken coop must simply have a door that is left open some of the time. “Cage free,” on the other hand, is a term that essentially evokes a similar meaning as “free range,” the difference being that farms feel the term is less misleading. There is no legal definition of cage free.
Egg Ratings: A vs. AA – In the United States, eggs are graded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eggs are graded according to interior quality of the egg, as well as condition of the shell. According to Wikipedia, “U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are “reasonably” firm. U.S. Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains.” Grade A eggs are most commonly sold in supermarkets in the U.S. Because there’s no health difference between Grade A and AA, purchasing Grade A eggs is a good option for saving money.
Egg Sizes – The most common sizes of eggs seen in supermarkets are jumbo, extra-large, large and medium. Medium eggs are defined as greater than 1.75 ounce, large are greater than 2 ounce, extra-large greater than 2.25 ounce, and jumbo greater than 2.5 ounce. If you’re able to get your hands on medium-sized eggs, you’ll have a great opportunity to save some cash. You can get 18 medium-sized eggs for the same price as a dozen large or extra-large eggs. And because eggs are often used as ingredients in other foods (such as pancakes, cookies, etc.) using a slightly smaller egg won’t make a difference.
Now that you’ve got a handle on what all of these terms mean in the scheme of all things egg, take a look at our past post on Prepping for Easter for great tips on how to make this Easter a green Easter. Make that pastel green.