When it comes to the number of types of eggs, there are a variety of different types of animal eggs available depending on the animal that laid them.
Poultry eggs are perhaps the most common variety of eggs found in stores, while luxury items like caviar are also popular in some regions.
Different Specifications of Eggs
Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients in any kitchen and come from chickens, ducks, quail, and turkey, to name a few.
Most free-range eggs come from hens raised in either open-area housing systems, such as those found on farms, or furnished housing provided by farmers that allow the birds to move around freely within the barn or aviary.
Take note of the different egg grades when purchasing, as the quality grades increase the health benefits of the enriched eggs.
Before we dive into the different varieties of eggs, it is helpful to understand the classifications.
This section will explore the different classification grades of eggs according to USDA standards.
Egg size is determined by weight per dozen, and it ranges from peewee to jumbo. The most commonly sold eggs in the market are medium, large, and extra-large.
- Peewee: These eggs weigh less than 15 ounces per dozen.
- Small: These eggs weigh between 18 to 21 ounces per dozen.
- Medium: These eggs weigh between 21 to 24 ounces per dozen.
- Large: These eggs weigh between 24 to 27 ounces per dozen.
- Extra-Large: These eggs weigh between 27 to 30 ounces per dozen.
- Jumbo: These eggs weigh more than 30 ounces per dozen.
Interestingly, the size of the egg is determined by the breed of the chicken and not by its age. Younger chickens tend to lay smaller eggs, but as they mature, the size of their eggs increases.
Eggs are also classified based on quality and appearance. The USDA has three grades for eggs: AA, A, and B.
AA grade is the highest-quality egg and accounts for about 10% of all eggs sold. They have thick, firm whites and high, round yolks. The shells of AA graded eggs are clean and unbroken, with a smooth texture. These eggs are usually sold at a premium price.
A grade is the most commonly sold egg in the market and accounts for about 70% of all eggs sold. They have reasonably firm whites but have slightly flattened yolks. The shells of A graded eggs are also clean and unbroken but may have small blemishes or spots.
B grade is the lowest-quality egg and accounts for about 20% of all eggs sold. They have thinner whites and flatter yolks compared to AA and A grades. The shells of B graded eggs may have noticeable stains, rough texture, or minor cracks.
It is important to note that the grade of an egg does not affect its nutritional value, but it does affect its appearance and cooking properties.
- Description: The most common type of eggs found in markets, produced by chickens housed in cages and fed a grain-based diet often supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
- Production Methods: Hens are housed in large, multi-tiered cages with limited movement. Eggs are collected on a conveyor belt for cleaning, grading, and packing.
- Taste Profile: Generally mild and slightly creamy taste, with yolk color varying from pale yellow to deep orange, depending on the hen's diet.
- Definition: Produced by hens not confined to battery cages, allowing some degree of freedom to roam in open spaces.
- Production Methods: Housed in large barns, with access to nesting boxes and perches but may lack outdoor access.
- Taste Profile: Often reported to have a richer flavor and darker, more robust yolk compared to conventional eggs.
- Definition: Produced by birds permitted outdoors for at least part of the day.
- Production Methods: Hens housed in barns with access to an outdoor range, allowing natural behaviors like pecking, scratching, and foraging.
- Taste Profile: Richer taste and more vibrant yolk color due to the varied diet of the hens.
- Definition: Produced from chickens fed organic feed with outdoor access; no antibiotics administered unless necessary.
- Production Methods: Prioritize the health and welfare of chickens with a natural diet free from GMOs and pesticides.
- Taste Profile: Often found to have a richer taste and creamier texture than conventional eggs.
- Definition: Laid by hens fed a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, usually from flaxseeds or fish oil.
- Production Methods: Careful management of hens' diet to increase Omega-3 content.
- Taste Profile: Comparable to regular eggs while providing higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Pasture Raised Eggs
- Definition: Produced by chickens roaming freely on pastures, foraging for a natural diet.
- Production Methods: Mobile housing on rotating pastures for fresh vegetation and a diverse diet.
- Taste Profile: Often described as richer and more flavorful compared to other types of eggs.
Free Run Eggs
- Definition: Produced by hens that can move freely within an open-concept barn, although lacking outdoor access.
- Production Methods: Hens roam freely in open barns, with a diet typically composed of grain supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
- Taste Profile: This can vary based on the hen's diet but generally has a fresh and rich flavor.
- Definition: Sourced from hens fed a vegetarian diet, free from animal by-products.
- Production Methods: Hens raised on a diet consisting entirely of plant-based feeds, often including grains like corn and soybeans.
- Taste Profile: Generally similar to regular eggs, with some consumers reporting slight flavor and yolk color differences.
- Definition: Products derived from eggs, available in liquid, frozen, or powdered forms, often pasteurized for extended shelf life and food safety.
- Production Methods: Eggs are collected, washed, and inspected, broken in a sanitary environment, and processed into various forms.
- Taste Profile: Largely mirrors that of fresh eggs with a rich, savory taste.
Vitamin Enhanced Eggs
- Definition: Nutritionally fortified eggs produced from hens fed a special diet enriched with specific vitamins.
- Production Methods: Hens are fed a specially formulated diet rich in specific vitamins like D, E, and B12, and sometimes Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Taste Profile: Similar to regular eggs with a primary difference in nutrient content rather than flavor.