Free Range Eggs

What’s the Difference Between Peewee, Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large, and Jumbo Eggs?

By Nellie's Kindness Crew

Graphic image with ruler below various eggs in increasing size. Graphic image with ruler below various eggs in increasing size.

Next time you're at the grocery store, look closely at the cartons in the egg aisle. If you hadn't already noticed, you'll see that eggs come in many different sizes—not just large! Many people think that eggs are packaged according to physical size, but in reality, it's all about weight rather than volume. If you've ever wonderered how egg sizes are decided, who regulates egg sizes in the United States, or why some hens lay medium eggs while others lay jumbo eggs, it's time to get your questions answered!

How are egg sizes decided?

The United States Department of Agriculture, also known as the USDA, is the authority on sizes for eggs sold in the US. The USDA measures egg sizes by weight per dozen, not by the dimensions or visual size of an egg. If you've ever noticed that some of the eggs in your carton look larger or smaller than the others, it's because what ultimately matters, according to the USDA, is the total weight of the dozen eggs in the carton.

What are the official egg sizes?

The USDA recognizes six weight classes for shelled chicken eggs. These weight classes include peewee, small, medium, large, extra-large, and jumbo. Each weight class has its own minimum weight requirement:

  • Peewee eggs must be a minimum of 15 ounces per dozen.
  • Small eggs must be a minimum of 18 ounces per dozen.
  • Medium eggs must be a minimum of 21 ounces per dozen.
  • Large eggs must be a minimum of 24 ounces per dozen.
  • Extra-large eggs must be a minimum of 27 ounces per dozen.
  • Jumbo eggs must be a minimum of 30 ounces per dozen.

Why are the eggs in my carton larger than normal?

The USDA permits the packing of any weight class of eggs into packaging marked for the next smaller size. This means that large eggs can be packed into cartons marked for medium eggs, and extra-large eggs can be packed into cartons marked for large eggs. However, the larger eggs cannot be "intermingled in the same carton with the lower marked weight class," which means that the entire carton must contain eggs of the same weight class. If you've ever purchased a carton of large eggs and found that they were all bigger and heavier than expected, now you know why!

Why are eggs different sizes?

There are many factors that can influence the size of a hen's egg, including her age, breed, and the time of year.

  • Hen age: When hens are still learning how to lay, they often produce eggs that fall into the peewee and small weight classes. However, young hens have also been known to lay jumbo eggs (sometimes with double yolks!). When hens are in the prime of their laying days, they usually produce medium and large eggs.
  • Hen breed: Some hens are bred to lay larger eggs, while other breeds tend to lay very small eggs. In general, the larger the hen's body, the larger the eggs she'll lay.
  • Time of year: When the weather cools down and the days get shorter, a hen's production naturally slows. During the coldest months of winter, her eggs may be slightly smaller than usual.

How does Nellie's weigh and pack eggs?

Weighing and packing our free range eggs to USDA standards requires precision. Every morning, our scales are checked and calibrated for each USDA egg weight class, and this entire process is documented. Next, we determine which weight classes will be packaged in which areas of our packing facility, and our system is programmed to run certain weight classes to their respective pack lines. This system is computerized and prohibits eggs in a certain weight class to be packaged in the wrong cartons. This also allows us to easily track the total weight of all eggs run through a particular pack line during the day, which means we can verify that the average weight of any given egg class during that day was within USDA parameters. Computers don't do all the work, though! We always have personnel monitoring the packing line and manually documenting weights of filled cartons, which is yet another way to ensure that our cartons are up to sizing standards every time they leave our facility on the way to your local grocery store.


DaveNovember 24, 2022

I really never knew this and thought it was by size. When I was a kid, my mom worked at the Sunny Slope Egg Farm in Gilford, NH. Sometimes she'd bring me along and used to love seeing the operation (a lot less sophisticated than now). The eggs entering the processing room on a conveyor belt from the huge chicken "coop" and traveling through the washers, the candler, and on to the sorter. The sorter reminded me of one of those coin separators where the coins fall through the holes they fit through. The eggs would roll along and, whether sorted by weight or size, eventually roll down one of the chutes (peewee to jumbo) where the packagers would put them in cartons. I remember that near the candling booth there were huge jars or buckets bearing the logo of a major mayonnaise manufacturer (maybe Kraft?). Eggs with cracks, and I want to say blood spots even though it sounds gross, were opened and the yolk/albumin went into the jars and would be sent back to be used to make mayonnaise. I'd help out sometimes and once was paid to help clean the "coop." OMG, what a horrible smell, but it didn't take long to not smell it anymore (smell sense overload, I guess). That was 50+ years ago so some details have gotten fuzzy. The egg processing was "wo-manned" by a small crew of maybe 5 women? I'm now 67, living in the Philippines, and when I see large eggs here, many times I shake my head and think, "Nope, that's a medium for sure."


Hi Dave, thanks for sharing your childhood stories with us! What a pleasure to read!

Ernest Shipman January 21, 2022

Nice to know info ; 5 of 5 Stars *****


Hi Ernest, we're always glad to pass along helpful information!

Kenneth B. GillAugust 29, 2020



Well thank you, Kenneth! We are so glad you enjoy our eggs.

Liz DegiorgioAugust 28, 2020

I've had issues with different size eggs in the carton. A worker in dairy told me that is because, if there are broken eggs they replace them. They don't look if it's large or extra large. I'm a baker and I need the same size eggs. I don't like to open the carton to look at them I look at them from the bottom. This has been an issue


Hi Liz, we are so sorry to hear this and certainly take this issue seriously. Would you mind sending us an email at [email protected] to let us know where you purchased these eggs from. If you still have a carton on-hand that you had this issue with, that information will be helpful as well so we can look further into this. Thank you for your help and, again, so sorry for the trouble!

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