Shell Eggs Marketed by Weight and Unit

Most retail shell eggs are sold by the unit with weight constraints. The most common unit is a dozen eggs. However, quantities of 4, 6, 8, 18, 20, or 30 eggs are also available, packaged in cartons or flats. The U.S. classes for shell eggs are shown in Table 1.

In recent years, more eggs are directed to breaking operations for out-of-the-shell egg products. As a result, peewee, small, and most of the medium eggs have been eliminated from supermarket shelves. Some retail outlets sell loose egg mix, which contains all egg sizes. The consumer chooses the desired mix and pays by weight. The major shell egg specialty categories are described subsequently.

Free range

In this production, hens are kept on floor spaces and must have access to a large yard where they can walk and stretch their wings. In France, where this concept was developed, more requirements are imposed: minimum space requirements (square ft per hen) indoors as well as outdoors; no artificial lighting; no pesticide usage indoors or outdoors; and no more than 2 weeks shelf life of

Fig. 1 Designer eggs rich in omega 3 fatty acids (Australia).

products. In the United States, only access to an outdoor yard is required.

Cageless hen houses

Numerous EU countries are now converting to a cageless system without access to an outdoor yard. Hens are raised on the floor with laying chambers, which is a costly method compared to cages.

Designer eggs

Such production is based on the fact that the fat-soluble component fed to chickens can accumulate in the yolk. The most commercially successful shell egg product is the one fortified with omega-3 fatty acids (Fig. 1). This nutraceutical is found in deep-sea fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel and in plants such as flaxseed. Eggs enriched with vitamin E up to 6% of daily recommendation are also available in the market.

Organic eggs

Organic eggs are produced by feeding chicken grains and other plant-origin ingredients that are produced without pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or organic fertilizers (Fig. 2). Animal by-products such as meat-and-bone meal are also prohibited from being fed. As a result, egg flavor is improved due to the elimination of rancid components developed in the animal by-products during processing and storage. Off flavors and odors tend to accumulate in the yolk.

Fertile eggs

Fertile eggs are eggs produced in cageless houses where hens and roosters share the floor (Fig. 3).

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