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By Nellie's Kindness Crew
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!
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.
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:
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!
There are many factors that can influence the size of a hen's egg, including her age, breed, and the time of year.
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.
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!
Nice to know info ; 5 of 5 Stars *****
Hi Ernest, we're always glad to pass along helpful information!
Well thank you, Kenneth! We are so glad you enjoy our eggs.
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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