4 Things You May Not Have Known About Eggs…and the Hens Who Make Them
We all know the humble egg is a good source of protein and a breakfast go-to, but that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to this small and mighty staple. To start, though, we believe in buying high-quality eggs. Pete & Gerry’s® Pasture-Raised Eggs come from hens that are responsibly raised on small family farms according to Certified Humane® Pasture-Raised standards. They have plenty of room to roam, forage, and explore on expansive pastures — with at least 108 square feet of pasture per hen. (More on that in a second!) The results are eggs with richer, creamier taste, deep-golden yolks, and substantial whites.
And if that’s news to you, there’s a whole lot to learn and love about eggs and the hens who lay them.
A Hen’s Earlobes Indicate Its Eggshell Color
If you’ve ever been curious why some eggs have white shells and others have brown shells, you’ll be surprised to know the reason. It has nothing to do with the nutrition of the egg itself but simply is an indicator of the hen that laid it! Hens with white feathers near their earlobes typically lay white eggs while hens with brown feathers near the earlobes generally lay brown eggs.
“Pasture-Raised” Is Different from “Cage-Free” and “Free-Range”
These are all phrases you’re used to seeing at the grocery store, but it would be understandable if your brain just lumps them all together to mean the same thing. The thing is, they don’t. Pasture-raised eggs come from hens that have the largest outdoor area, at least 108 square feet of pasture per hen, as regulated by the USDA. This allows them the luxury of roaming freely outdoors, foraging, and exploring. Cage-free eggs, meanwhile, mean simply that: The hens are not kept in cages. But the USDA term allows them to be kept exclusively indoors without access to the outdoors. The difference between cage-free and free-range is that the latter enjoy unfettered access to the outdoors, but that space is smaller than the outdoor space of a pasture-raised hen.
In the end, happy hens equate to more delicious eggs, with rich golden yolks, substantial egg whites, and sturdy shells. And the happiest hens are those that have ample elbow room. Or wing room.
Egg Size Is Actually Determined by Weight
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a large and a jumbo egg, it all comes down to weight. Before eggs are sold, the USDA requires that all eggs are sorted by grade and weight. Weight is calculated per dozen because there is such variation between individual eggs that weighing by the dozen averages them out. Here are the official categories:
- Small: 18 ounces per dozen (about 1.5 ounces per egg)
- Medium: 21 ounces per dozen (about 1.75 ounces per egg)
- Large: 24 ounces per dozen (about 2 ounces per egg)
- Extra-Large: 27 ounces per dozen (about 2.25 ounces per egg)
- Jumbo: 30 ounces per dozen (about 2.5 ounces per egg)
There’s a Reason Why Americans Refrigerate Eggs and Europeans Don’t
If you’ve ever traveled to Europe and popped into a grocery store, you might have been surprised to see eggs sold at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator case. In the United States, the USDA requires that eggs sold in grocery stores must be washed with hot soap and water to reduce the risk of transferring salmonella. Washing the eggs also removes a natural protective coating on the shells, however, and makes them porous, so they must be refrigerated after they’ve been washed to prevent any further bacterial exposure. The same protocol is not followed in Europe, so the natural protective coating remains.