Which came first: the chicken or the egg? While I don’t have an answer for that question, I recently learned answers to some other curious questions about chickens and eggs.
Something I learned last week, which I hadn’t realized before, is that chicken eggs are not all the same size. Obviously, once you think about this, it makes sense, but for some reason I had simply never stopped to think about it before.
Something else that surprised me recently about chickens is they only lay one egg at a time. Clearly, this shouldn’t be all that surprising either to anyone who’s stopped and thought about it before.
It was quickly becoming clear to me that I had apparently, until now, derived all my egg-based knowledge from Looney Tunes — not necessarily the most reputable source.
No matter when I buy my eggs, I always seem to find myself in a race against time to use them all. However, I’ve found that even if you don’t use all of them before the package expiration date, there’s an easy way to test if your eggs are still good to use without even cracking them open, and often my eggs will still be good weeks after their expiration date.
Fill a glass most of the way with water, then gently place the egg in question in the glass of water. If the egg floats, it’s bad; if the egg sinks, it’s more than likely a good egg.
This happens because as the egg gets older the air pocket begins to get bigger and it makes the egg more likely to float.
I’ve found this method to be accurate almost every time I’ve tried it, but I have had a few bad eggs sink.
If you want to be careful after the glass-of-water test, break each egg into a cup before you pour it into the bowl or other container you want it in. That way, if one of the eggs is bad, you’ll know by the smell but you won’t have cracked it into the rest of your still-good eggs and ruined them.
Grocery stores often have a large number of choices in the egg section — organic, cage-free, white, brown, small and large eggs are often all available.
In making a smart, eco-friendly egg choice, size and color don’t really matter.
Each chicken is capable of producing different sizes of eggs, meaning there’s no connections between egg size and environmental friendliness or chicken happiness.
As for color of the egg, though it is not always accurate, it turns out most of the time a chicken’s earlobe color determines it’s egg color. I didn’t even know chickens had earlobes, but NPR did some research into the egg-color connection after a story it did relating egg color to feather color got a lot of complaints. The earlobe connection is what the radio news source found.
Chickens with white earlobes generally lay white eggs and chickens with red earlobes generally lay brown eggs. Most of the time chickens with white earlobes have white feathers and chickens with red earlobes have brown feathers, but it’s not always the case.
While size and color don’t mean much, egg attributes you should consider are if the eggs are cage-free and/or organic.
When you buy cage-free eggs, it means the chickens that produced the eggs live in larger, open areas, rather than being confined to small cages.
According to eggnutritioncenter.org’s glossary of egg terms, cage-free eggs are eggs that are laid by chickens often referred to as “free-roaming hens.” These hens are free to roam around and have unlimited access to food and water. Sometimes the facilities they are in are buildings, rooms or an open area in a barn or poultry house.
To me, this seems much nicer for the chickens than the alternative of being caged up. If I were a chicken, I’d much rather be able to roam around and have unlimited access to food than to be stuck in a cage.
If you feel the same way, you can show your support by purchasing eggs labeled as cage-free. It’s a few more cents per egg, but I think it’s worth it.
As far as organic eggs go, a certified organic egg must pass USDA standards concerning methods, practices and substances used in producing the egg.
Some of these requirements, again according to eggnutritioncenter.org, include feeding hens food grown without standard pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or commercial fertilizers.
Like cage-free eggs, organic eggs have a higher price tag because it’s more expensive to produce them.
Even though it’s better for the environment anytime you are avoiding using harsh chemicals to produce something, the nutrient content of organic eggs is not any different from eggs without the organic certification.
Other egg options include locally raised eggs that were produced nearby — always an environmental plus — and eggs from grass-fed chickens.
Clearly choosing eggs can be a little more complicated than just grabbing the nearest carton and moving on.
Eggs are pretty cheap, even if you pay the extra for organic, cage-free or locally raised eggs. If you’re like me and only use about a dozen eggs a month, switching to the most environmentally friendly egg option available will hardly change your total grocery expenses at all, but it will make you feel better about what you’re eating.