When people think of Iowa agriculture, corn, soybeans and hogs usually come to mind. This makes sense, considering we lead the U.S. in all of those categories in terms of production numbers. However, what most people don’t realize is that Iowa also leads the nation in egg production!
There are roughly 280 million laying birds in the U.S., with each one of those hens producing 250 to 300 eggs a year. That equates to 77 billion eggs produced in the U.S. every year. Have you ever wondered what the breakdown is between sizes, grades and additional information you see on your egg carton? Here a few guidelines to help you make sense of all the labels.
Grade is determined by quality factors like defects, freshness and shell attributes, not by size. All eggs are classified according to the U.S. Standards for interior and exterior quality factors. There is very little difference between grade A and AA eggs. Grade B eggs are just as good to eat, and their thinner egg whites make them better for baking. For eggs to be packaged in cartons bearing the USDA grade shield, they must be packed in USDA facilities and sampled by official USDA graders.
The size of an egg can range from jumbo to pewee. Extra-large and medium size eggs are most commonly sold. Jumbos have nearly 90 calories and almost 8 grams of protein. That’s almost 50% more protein than medium eggs, giving you more protein-rich nutrients for your buck.
Color is determined by the breed of the hen; white hens lay white eggs and reddish-brown hens lay brown eggs. There is no significant nutritional difference between white and brown eggs. The main reason brown eggs tend to cost more is because the hens that lay them are usually larger and therefore eat more food.
- Vitamin Enhanced
Eggs that are enhanced with vitamins come from hens with modified diets that include alfalfa, rice bran and sea kelp to produce eggs rich in vitamin B, A, D and E. The nutrient boost is minimal, and is nothing compared to what you get from a wholesome diet or vitamin supplement.
- Omega-3 Enriched
Chickens that produce omega-3 enriched eggs are on diets that include flaxseed, algae and fish oils. This boosts omega-3 content from 30 mg per egg to 100-300+mg per egg. Most omega-3 enriched eggs also contain slightly less saturated fat, but that means a difference of about 0.4g per egg.
There you have it. Everything you need to know when looking for the perfect Easter eggs…