Questions about Eggs
Q. I want to sell my eggs; do I have to have them pasteurized?
No. The government has approved a pasteurization process for shell eggs, but the USDA requires that eggs be pasteurized only if they've been broken and used in a processed product. For backyard chicken operations, pasteurization is not necessary.
Q. I want to sell my eggs; do I have to get certified?
You don't need to get organic certification or certification from other agencies unless you specifically want to label your eggs as "organic." It's against USDA regulations to use the term "organic" on any food product unless it has been certified under National Organic Program standards. You do, however, need to check with your state department of agriculture to ensure that you are following local health and sanitation requirements for selling eggs.
Q. Do eggs laid by backyard flocks need to be refrigerated?
It's a good idea to keep backyard eggs refrigerated to reduce bacteria that may be growing on the shell, and to keep fertilized eggs from developing into embryos. Backyard and small-scale egg operations tend to be dustier and have more feathers and mud laying around than factory-scale operations and dust and dirt can lead to spoilage. Before cleaning, eggs should be kept at 60 degrees F and 70 percent humidity; afterwards, they should be stored in a refrigerator at 45 degrees F or lower.
Q. How long can eggs keep once refrigerated?
The USDA recommends using raw eggs within 5 weeks of refrigerating them, provided that you are keeping them in a standard household refrigerator. If you plan to sell your eggs and have a large refrigerator in which you can increase the humidity to 75 or 80 percent, the eggs will keep for three months (household refrigerators operate at a lower humidity).
Q. Are eggs from backyard flocks healthier than store bought eggs?
Yes, and a number of studies can prove it. A recent study from the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems found that hens raised on pasture, meaning they eat a small amount of grain but get most of their diet by foraging in the grass for bugs, have 2.5 times more omega-3 fatty acids and 2 times as much vitamin E than chickens raised in concentrated, industrial hen houses. Another 1998 study found that the omega-3 content of pastured eggs was as much as 10 times higher than conventional eggs (i.e. the store-bought kind). And, although not a peer-reviewed scientific journal, the magazine Mother Earth News conducted its own nutrient analyses of pastured eggs and found that they contained a third less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat, and seven times more beta carotene than what the USDA estimates is found in conventional, factory-farmed eggs. What's more, they found that pastured eggs contained up to six times more vitamin D, which nearly all Americans are deficient in and which can ward off multiple forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression while also boosting your immunity.
Q. Do different colored eggs have different nutritional values? Do they taste different?
No, different-colored eggs have to do with the species of hen that laid the egg and doesn't affect nutritional content or taste. Conventional factory-farmed chickens have been bred for certain traits, in this case the ability to as many eggs as possible to maximize production. Colored eggs indicate that they've come from a "heritage breed," or an older variety of hen that has more genetic diversity. There are over 60 heritage breeds of hens that lay eggs in varying shades of white, brown and blue.
Q. Can I eat an egg that’s been fertilized?
Yes, you can eat them. Fertilized egg yolks may have a brown or black speck that people may find unappealing, so people who raise store bought eggs remove them from their batches. Still, the chances of you eating a fertilized egg is rare if you don't have a rooster in your backyard flock. Hens lay eggs, whether a rooster is present or not, but a rooster is needed to fertilize the egg.
Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The world may never know the answer to that question, but when it comes to our preference for eating chickens or their eggs, evolutionary biologists think we liked the chicken first. In a 2006 issue of a journal called The American Naturalist, biologists studying how predators began to develop a taste for their prey found that ancestors of modern day predators often preferred adult animals, like lizards and chickens, whereas their modern-day descendants prefer the eggs. Sure, it's easier to hunt eggs that stay in one place rather than adults that move around, the authors wrote, but they think predators use chemical cues to recognize that eggs are just baby versions of the animals they were eating. We humans may not be that far off in the way we learned to eat animals, they add. So fry up an egg and eat like a modern-day hunter!