To celebrate the Passover and Easter holidays this week I wanted to focus on the Egg; The oval, thin shelled, reproductive body of a bird, especially that of a hen, used as food.
Eggs have been eaten by people for thousands of years. Popular choices for egg consumption are duck, quail, fish, and even ostrich, but the egg most often consumed by humans is the chicken egg.
The white leghorn is commonly used as a laying chicken in many countries of the world. The leghorn is a breed of chicken originating in Tuscany, Italy. The birds were first exported to North America in 1828.
The shell color is a breed characteristic. Most chicken breeds lay light-to-medium brown eggs. A few breeds lay white, dark brown, green, blue, or cream colored eggs. An egg’s shell color is only “skin deep”-- the egg inside is the same as eggs of other colors.
The US Department of Agriculture grades eggs by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight and size.
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 the whites are "reasonably" firm.
This is the quality most often sold in stores.
Grade AA and Grade A eggs are best for frying and poaching, where appearance is important.
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.
This quality is seldom found in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products, as well as other egg-containing products.
Eggs are considered by several groups of people to represent life and are used as offerings and symbolic to rituals like The Passover Seder Plate, a special plate containing symbolic foods eaten or displayed at the Passover Seder. The Easter holiday also celebrates the egg with decorating and games.
Fertile eggs are laid by female chickens allowed to commingle with males.
Common belief is fertile eggs are higher in protein but this has not been scientifically proven.
Some eggs are marketed as containing Omega 3 oils. These are commonly from chickens raised on feed with flax seed and/or fish oils incorporated.
Certified organic eggs are from chickens that are fed certified organic feed.
The terms ‘cage free’ and ‘free range’ aren’t government regulated and are often used in labeling and packaging. I think about a large egg farm with 20 thousand chickens, laying eggs. It must be extremely difficult to actually allow the chickens to roam freely without cages. I have heard stories of large egg farms that are considered ‘cage free’ but only remove the chickens from the cages for 30 minutes while the cages are cleaned. With no regulations there is no way of knowing. The Certified Humane label often on Pasture Raised eggs aredefinitely the way to go. Pasture raised hens are usually from small, family owned farms with smaller and easier to control flocks of a few hundred or less. The birds are able to eat a natural diet of insects, seeds, grass and other wild things. The eggs are more flavorful and nutritious, even contain higher levels of omega 3’s, from all the bugs! Yum!
After several years in the dairy department in more than one Whole Foods Market location, I realized that customers are looking for an egg with integrity from happy, healthy hens in humane environments feeding on organic food. My favorite pasture raised egg comes from a farm in Austin, Texas called Vital Farms. Vital Farm hens are certified Organic and certifiedhumane raised and handled, and truly are happy hens. I also know that Vital Farms has a relationship with Whole Foods Market exclusively to produce the “Backyard Eggs”, pasture raised eggs sold at only select WFM locations. Each hen is given 108sft of pasture ….that is totally amazing! Here is a link to their website for more information: www.vitalfarms.com
I hope you learned as much as I did researching eggs! Sources include Wikipedia, USDA website, and vital farms website.
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