In 2015, the USDA removed all restrictions on dietary cholesterol, with a particular emphasis on eggs. This means we’re free to enjoy the health benefits of this vitamin-rich food, identified by the WHO as the most digestible protein source available.
Health perks aside, eggs shine when it comes to versatility and affordability, too. They’re a vital component of many common dishes, a breakfast staple, and the darling of the gym enthusiast’s diet.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the different types of eggs and how they’re classified.
The Different Types of Eggs
All birds lay eggs, and some reptiles do too, but we only eat eggs from eight different types of birds. The most common types of eggs you’re likely to find on your plate are:
Duck eggs have a slightly larger yolk and thicker shell than chicken eggs. They also have a richer, smoother taste and have more protein and fat.
Quail eggs are tiny and delicate and are most often served boiled as part of a salad. They have a lighter taste than most eggs, and many people consider them a delicacy.
Geese only lay about 40 eggs per year, so their eggs aren’t widely eaten. They have thick shells, a dense taste, and a higher protein content than most other eggs.
Turkey eggs have a thick yolk and egg white, although they taste similar to duck eggs with a slightly creamier consistency. Some chefs prefer cooking pastries with turkey eggs because of this.
Pheasant eggs are only slightly larger than chicken eggs. They have a gamey flavor that’s somewhat of an acquired taste.
The largest bird on Earth also produces the largest egg, weighing in at 3 pounds per serving – that’s twenty times the size of a chicken egg.
Each egg packs a whopping 2,000 calories, and they’re notoriously difficult to crack, but once you get them open, they’re quite delicious.
Emu eggs are as strange as the birds that produce them. They weigh about 2 pounds and have a pretty dark shell speckled with green.
When you crack an emu egg, nothing oozes out as the egg white has the consistency of glue, and the yolk is akin to silly putty. Despite these peculiarities, emu eggs taste similar to chicken eggs, except they’re creamier and richer.
The most widely eaten eggs of all, chicken eggs, are readily available at supermarkets and farmer’s markets everywhere you go. The rest of this article centers around this humble staple of modern diets.
When you head to the supermarket in search of eggs, you’ll find an abundance of different chicken eggs available. The most common way to classify these is by weight, i.e. net weight per dozen eggs.
There are six different classifications for chicken eggs, as follows:
- Jumbo weighing 30 ounces
- Extra-large weighing 27 ounces
- Large weighing 24 ounces
- Medium weighing 21 ounces
- Small weighing 18 ounces
- Peewee weighing 15 ounces
The best size egg for you is largely a matter of preference, but if you enjoy baking, you should check the recipe for the required size before you go shopping.
Grades of Eggs
The USDA classifies eggs according to their quality, i.e. texture, appearance, and suitability for cooking. This is what the different classifications mean:
These eggs have a near-perfect appearance with a thick egg white and firm, round egg yolk. They’re best for poaching, frying, and boiling, but suit any cooking method.
Grade A eggs are most commonly sold in stores. They’re good multi-use eggs but particularly suited to frying, poaching, and boiling.
Grade B eggs seem watery when you crack them open, and the yolk seems flattened. They’re best for scrambling or using as part of another dish.
Different Chickens Lay Different Eggs
If you look at several chicken eggs side by side, you’ll notice slight color variations in the shells. Different breeds of chickens lay different colored eggs.
Most supermarket eggs are white or brown, and usually reflect the color of their creator, i.e. white chickens lay white eggs and brown chickens lay brown eggs.
Yet you can get eggs in colors ranging from blue, dark brown, pink, or green, laid by a specially bred type of chicken called an olive egger.
You might also notice information about how the farmers raise their chickens on the cartons of eggs you buy, too. This may include:
Cage-Free or Free-Range
These chickens live as natural a life as possible. They may roam freely around a building with nest space and perches. Free-range chickens have access to the outdoors.
Pasture-raised hens also roam the outdoors. Except they have pastures maintained to optimize their nutrition and well-being.
Certified Humane and American Human Certified
Facilities may apply for accreditation by the Humane Farm Animal Care Organization to put their customers’ minds at ease. American Humane-certified facilities undergo regular audits by the American Human Association.
Facilities with this certification feed their chickens only on certified organic feed. In most cases, free-ranging chickens help themselves to an organic diet, but if you want to be sure, look for this classification.
Hens produce a substance around their eggs called the ”bloom”. This naturally protects the egg from harmful bacteria, until it’s washed off.
Pasteurized eggs undergo a heat treatment that destroys any potential pathogens in the eggs, although most eggs are perfectly safe as they are.
Omega-3 Enriched and Vegetarian Fed
The hens’ diet always impacts their eggs, so it’s possible to enhance their eggs by feeding them a diet rich in omega-3s. A vegetarian diet for hens excludes any fish oils or fish meal, sometimes used as a supplement by farmers.
Are you ready to try some new types of eggs, soon? Now that you know your egg options, you can ensure you’re buying the best ones for your recipes or your dietary needs.
Cooking eggs is an easy and versatile way to pump up the protein in your diet. Browse our blog for more information on how to eat well and stay healthy.