The Millstone Times January 2022


Remember when you went to the supermarket and you bought a carton of eggs. All you had to think about was whether you wanted small, large, or extra-large eggs. Now you are inundated with different carton labels that frankly send you in a tizzy trying to figure out which carton is just right for your consumption. Terms you should know: • Cage-free- This doesn’t necessarily mean that the hens are out there roaming the countryside eating bugs and flowers. Cage-free means that they are probably in an aviary-type system, where they are inside a large build- ing and they don’t go outside. • Free- range- According to the USDA- free range hens must have continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. The outdoor area may or may not be fenced in or covered with netting. • Pasture raised- This means the hens are outside most of their life. This term is not regulated by the USDA so unless it is accompanied by a certified humane designation, it carries little weight.

• Unspecified- generic non-name- brand cartons of eggs are most likely from an industrial egg farm. While some large farms have cage free facilities, it’s almost impossible to know if the unspecified eggs you’re buying are from cage-free facilities. • Egg Color- while most eggs you buy are white or brown, you can find blue and even green ones in some cartons. There is no nutritional or flavor difference between them. • Grades- Grades indicate not only freshness but also the quality of the egg you can get. Grade AA is the highest grade, but since it takes time to get the eggs from the farm to the store, you will find most are Grade A on the grocery shelves. Grade b eggs, those that are blemished, are sent to food processing facilities to make other egg products. • Farm fresh- This term is not regulated by the USDA so unless you are buying your eggs from a local farmer, you can ignore it. • Hormone free- This label is misleading. It’s illegal to give chickens hormones, so basically all eggs should be hormone free. • Vegetarian fed- This means the eggs are fed only vegetarian feed, but since chickens are natural omnivores, a vegetarian diet is not the best for their digestive system. • Omega 3- This means that the hens feed contains omega 3 fatty acids. Which could be in the form of fish oil, flaxseeds and dehydrated alfalfa. • Pasteurized- Most eggs aren’t pasteurized, they are washed and sanitized per USDA regulations. The washing removes bacteria and debris from the shells. They are also heated to kill bacteria such as salmonella. This can affect the protein structure of the egg whites, which in turn can affect some recipes that call for stiffly whipped egg whites. • Organic- This means the farm has been certified by the USDA as organic. This means the hens are fed non genetically modified foods, giving antibiotics only when needed, the hens are provided with access to the outdoors, and the egg farmer uses farming methods that promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. • Certified humane- this requires a non-governmental third-party auditor to check to make sure the hens are being treated humanely. Some requirements might be providing access to perches and nests boxes, limiting flock density, forbidding debeaking, and providing outdoor access, if they want a cer- tified humane pasture raised or free- range designation. This would be my choice, even if I have to pay more. Knowing the chickens aren’t being fed GMOs has always been number one with me. Look for the non-gmo label on the carton. Next time you chose a carton of eggs, don’t just pick the ones on sale, look over the labels. Choose what’s best for you. Do you need to refrigerate your eggs? That all depends on if the eggs were washed. Supermarket eggs were washed, so they must be refrigerated. Refrigeration prevents the bacteria from grow- ing. Home raised eggs, if they haven’t been washed, still have their protective cuticle and don’t need to be refrigerated. Before using though, you should give them a quick rinse. Don’t use cracked eggs. That’s an opening for bacteria to get in. Eggshells are porous and can absorb odors. Best recommendation is to keep them off the refrigerator door where they are subjected daily to warmer air. Keep them on the shelf to stay cool. Yolk color- What a hen eats determined the yolk color. Some egg farmers feed their hens hot peppers, now that’s a spicy chicken, which in turn produce a bright red yolk. All white cornmeal diets produce white yolks, rich orange yolks could be a product of a diet of marigolds, dehydrated alfalfa, and kitchen scraps. The taste of lipids and fats in a yolk, might be evident in the hen that was fed this diet. Yolk color doesn’t mean better flavor or nutrition, but by far, the best tasting eggs are local ones. Always good to ask a local farmer what he feeds his hens. If they use GMO feed, I wouldn’t buy it. Some tidbits- What’s the difference between a hen and a chicken? In general, it can be said that “chicken” is a particular type of species. It refers to a broad term for the bird, whether it is a female or a male, a young or a mature. Meanwhile, a hen is an adult female chicken with the ability to lay eggs. • One large egg contains 6 grams of protein. • A hen lays around 300 eggs per year, almost one a day. • A hen’s earlobes can sometimes indicate the color of its eggs. White earlobes can mean white eggs while red one’s can mean brown eggs. • An average American eats about 279 eggs a year. (This information was made possible by Dianna Bourassa, assistant professor and extension specialist at the Department of Poultry Science at Auburn University, Alabama.)

28 The Millstone Times

January 2022

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