Ag 101: Eggs

Aurora moving along the horizon

While stocking up on eggs recently, I noticed the wide variety of choices in the egg section. There were white eggs, brown eggs, and sizes ranging from medium to jumbo. I also found cartons labeled free-range, cage-free and organic. Looking at all of the options sparked many questions. Does shell color affect the taste or nutrition? How will egg size affect my recipe? Is free-range and cage-free the same? I had more questions the longer I thought about it.

After a few conversations with farmers and a little online research, I found my answers.

brown eggs

What’s the difference between White and Brown Eggs?

Egg shell color is determined by the breed of the chicken. White-feathered chickens with white ear lobes lay white eggs. Red or brown-feathered chickens with red ear lobes lay usually lay brown eggs.

Does shell color matter? Not really. Nutritionally there is no difference.

Where are most eggs produced?

I’m proud to say that Iowa is the top egg producing state! According to the Iowa Egg Council, one in five eggs consumed United States is from an Iowa farm. Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas around out the top five egg-producing states. These five states represent over half of all U.S. layers.

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Why are so many eggs produced in Iowa?

Corn and soybeans are key components of a hen’s diet. In fact, Iowa’s laying hens eat about 58 million bushels of corn and 30 million bushels of soybeans annually. Raising hens near their feed source reduces the overall production costs. Chicken litter, or manure, from Iowa’s egg farms also provides a valuable soil amendment and nutrient source that is used to grow the next crop of corn and soybeans.

Are most eggs gathered by hand?

Farmers who raise a small number of hens to sell eggs locally likely gather their eggs by hand. But most of today’s farms utilize automated gathering belts to do the job! Check out this cool video to see how it works!

How old are eggs in the grocery store?

Most eggs raised commercially, are shipped off the farm within 24 to 36 hours of being laid. Most go to a distributor, but still arrive at your local store within a week after being laid.

Apple Blossom In Spring!

What’s the difference between free range, cage free, and organic eggs?

Here’s the simple explanation:

Free-range eggs are produced by hens have access to outdoors. The hens consume grains, but may also eat wild plants and insects.

Cage-Free eggs are produced by hens raised inside, but may roam in a room or open area within the barn or poultry house.

Organic Eggs come from uncaged hens that have access to the outdoors. The hens are fed an organic diet of feed produced without conventional pesticides or fertilizers.

Visit the American Egg Board’s overview of common production systems if you’d like to know more.

What determines egg size?

All hens lay small eggs at first. The size of their eggs increases as they mature. In most modern breeds, hens are laying large to jumbo eggs by the time they are 40 weeks. Old.

A hen’s breed, body weight, and feed intake also affect egg size.

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What size eggs should I buy?

If you are buying eggs to scramble, fry, or poach, it really doesn’t matter. After some experimentation, you might find that you have a preference based on your appetite. For me, two large eggs make the perfect breakfast. If I am buying eggs to make deviled eggs, I prefer x-large or jumbo ones.

Buying eggs to use in recipes is a different story. Most recipes are developed using large eggs. Using a different size, especially when baking, will affect the texture, flavor balance, and consistency. I have a friend who only buys x-large eggs. She is an avid baker and doesn’t notice a difference if the recipe only calls for a few eggs. However, if she is doubling a recipe she will often use one less egg than called for. For example, if the recipe calls for six eggs, she’ll only use five. This egg size conversion chart is a handy recourse if your family prefers an egg size other than large.

– Cindy

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