How to Define an Egg
Why are my eggs this color? What does “pasture-raised eggs” mean? Why are there so many different grades of eggs?
There are so many questions when it comes to the eggs you encounter in your local grocery stores and markets. To help you decipher what it all means, we’ve taken a deep dive into the terms and phrases of the egg industry.
At MilkRun, we aim to be the gold standard when it comes to sourcing local, farm-fresh eggs from happy hens raised on natural, hormone-free diets.
Wanna crack the case on all those egg-xtra terms and definitions? Keep reading.
White, Brown, and Blue Eggs
The color of your MilkRun dozen depends on the breed of hen. White eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens with white or light-colored earlobes and brown eggs come from brown-feathered chickens with red earlobes. Some breeds even lay beautiful blue-shelled eggs! MilkRun loves every color of the egg rainbow, so grab a dozen and see what you get.
Grade AA, Grade A, Grade B
Egg grades were created by the USDA to give consumers insight into what’s happening on the surface and behind the shell with grocery store eggs. Here’s the scoop...
U.S. Grade AA eggshave pristine shells, thick, firm whites, and yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects. These and Grade A eggs are great for poaching and frying due to their pristine appearance.
U.S. Grade A eggsare what you’ll find on most grocery store shelves. They have characteristics similar to Grade AA eggs except that the whites might not be as firm.
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.
Organic and Conventional
No two food-related words in the last decade have gotten more attention than this pair, but the difference simply comes down to how food is produced. Of course, the best way to know you’re getting humanely raised and naturally nutritious eggs is by knowing your farmer — and MilkRun has that covered for you!
Organic eggs: To be certified as an "organic" egg by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, chickens need to be cage-free and eating an organic diet grown without pesticides, managed without antibiotics and hormones and have access to the outdoors when seasonal conditions allow.
Conventional eggs:Conventional broadly defined means that hens are fed genetically modified grains, from crops treated with chemical pesticides. Typically this label also means the eggs were raised with lower animal welfare standards than their organic counterparts, though even just the “organic” label doesn’t mean the animals are treated humanely.
Cage-Free means that chickens are kept uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but generally do not have access to the outdoors. They can engage in some of their natural behaviors such as walking and nesting, however, there are no standards regarding diet, and forced molting through starvation is permitted — which it never is and never will be at MilkRun.
Certified Humanemeans that birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but might still be kept indoors at all times. The law states that they must be able to perform behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing, and includes requirements for stocking density, number of perches and nesting boxes. One major benefit of this title is that it prohibits forced molting through starvation.
This means that chickens are kept uncaged inside barns or warehouses and are required to have outdoor access. They also eat an organic, all-vegetarian diet that’s free of antibiotics and pesticides. However, forced molting through starvation is permitted, which we absolutely do not support, nor do we work with farmers who engage in this practice.
This means that your eggs were laid by hens who lived with roosters, so they most likely were not caged.
Typically this label means that hens are kept uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have outdoor access. They can engage in many natural behaviors, but there is no information on diet, stocking density, the frequency or duration of outdoor time, or the quality of the lands on which they roam. It also permits forced molting.
This label has no relevance to animal welfare, so buyer beware!
This label claim has no relevance to animal welfare but instead speaks to an aspect of nutritional value. Though eggs are already a naturally occurring source of omega-3 fat, producers will sometimes supplement the hen’s feed with omega-3 fatty acids, typically in the form of flaxseed. They’re typically conventional, so you’re in the market for omega-3 enhanced eggs, be sure to look for free-range or organic varieties.
These birds eat a more natural diet than most hens, but the label does not address animal welfare.