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Specifics About Eggs

The incredible edible egg is an eggscellent, high-quality protein.  Here's where you can learn about egg specifics such as egg grading, egg quality, egg size, and egg purchasing.  Additionally, there is an Egg Product Buyers' Guide that will provide information on egg products, by supplier, format and region.

  1. Egg Composition & Color
  2. Egg Size
  3. Egg Quality
  4. Egg Size Substitution
  5. Egg Grading
  1. Specifications
  2. Specifications Example
  3. Purchasing
  4. Egg Products
  5. Egg Product Buyers guide

1. Egg Composition & Color

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Shell Color: can be either white or brown and is determined by the breed of the hen. It has no affect on quality, cooking properties, or nutritive value.

Yolk Color: determined by the feed of the hen.


  • Outer covering of egg, composed largely of calcium carbonate
  • May be white or brown depending on breed of chicken
  • Color does not effect egg quality, cooking characteristics, nutritive value or shell thickness

Air Cell

  • Pocket of air formed at the large end of egg
  • Caused by contraction of the contents during cooling after laying
  • Increases in size as egg ages

Shell Membrane

  • Two membranes-inner and outer shell membranes surround the albumen
  • Provide protective barrier against bacterial penetration
  • Air cell forms between these two membranes

Thin Albumen (white)

  • Nearest to the shell
  • Spreads around thick white of
    high-quality egg

egg chart

Vitelline (yolk) Membraine

  • Holds yolk contents

Thick Albumen (white)

  • Major source of egg riboflavin and protein
  • Stands higher and spreads less in higher grade eggs
  • Thins and becomes indistinguishable from thin white in lower grade eggs


  • Twisted, cordlike strands of egg white
  • Anchor yolk in center of egg
  • Prominent chalazae indicated freshness


  • Yellow portion of egg
  • Color varies with feed of the hen, but doesn't indicate nutritive content
  • Major source of egg vitamins, minerals,
    and fat

2. Egg Size

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egg sizes

3. Egg Quality

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Grade AA
Grade AA
Grade A
Grade A
Grade B
Grade B
Break Out Appearance Covers a moderate area. Covers a moderate area. Covers a wide area.
Albumen Appearance White is reasonably thick, stands fairly high; chalazae prominent. White is reasonably thick, stands fairly high; chalazae prominent. Small amount of thick white; chalazae small or absent. Appears weak and watery.
Yolk Appearance Yolk is firm, round and high Yolk is firm and stands fairly high Yolk is somewhat flattened and enlarged.
Shell Appearance Approximates usual shape; generally clean,* unrboken; ridges/rough spots that do not affect the shell strength are permitted. Abnormal shape; somem slight stained areas permitted; unbroken; pronounced ridges/thin spots permitted.
Usage Ideal for any use, but are especially desirable for poaching, frying and cooking in shell. Good for scrambling, baking and use as an ingredient in other foods.

4. Egg Size Substitution

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Jumbo Extra Large large Medium Small
1 1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2 3
5 5 6 7 8
9 10 12 13 15
18 21 24 27 28
37 44 50 56 62

5. Egg Grading

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The quality of an egg is determined by the grade of the egg and is not related to size. All eggs are classified according to the U.S. Standards for interior and exterior quality factors. This determines the grade of the egg as AA, A, or B.

Only eggs packed in official USDA plants and sampled by official USDA graders can be packed in cartons bearing the USDA grade shield. USDA grading is a voluntary service offered to processing plants that meet minimum USDA equipment, facility, sanitary, and processing requirements.

6. Specifications

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Shell egg specifications can be tailored to meet specific needs of buyers and can vary in complexity and detail.

At a minimum, specifications should include grade, size, and type of packing, packaging, and number of purchase units.

7. Specifications Example

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Fresh shell protected U.S. Consumer Grade AA Large, 30 dozen per shipping case, 15 cases.

Cartons labeled with an expiration date not to exceed 28 days from date of packaging. Deliveries to be made within 5 days of official grading.

8. Egg Purchasing

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When purchasing shell eggs, follow these guidelines:

  • Accept only clean, sound, and odor-free eggs.
  • Purchase eggs according to grade and size desired and only in the quantity needed for one to two weeks.
  • Accept only eggs delivered under refrigeration at a temperature of 45°F or below. Transfer to refrigerated storage promptly.
  • Eggs are generally packed and purchased in 30 dozen cases or half cases of 15 dozen.
  • Consider size and grade in relation to use and price. Also, compare prices for different sizes of eggs of the same grade.
  • Check the grade of eggs delivered to you. Inspect the shells and then randomly break a few. These eggs should meet the guidelines for their given grade (refer to Egg Quality Chart).

9. Egg Products

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The term "Egg Products" refers to processed or convenience forms of eggs obtained by breaking and processing shell eggs. Egg products include whole eggs, egg whites, and egg yolks in frozen, refrigerated liquid, and dried forms, available in a number of different product formulations, as well as specialty egg products. Specialty egg products include: pre-peeled hard-cooked eggs, egg rolls or "long eggs," omelets, egg patties, quiches, quiche mixes, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, and others.

Egg products are becoming increasingly popular in foodservice operations. That's because they're convenient to use and also provide a cost savings with regard to labor, storage, and portion control.

Frozen, refrigerated liquid, and dried egg products are similar to shell eggs in nutritional value and most functional properties.

For further information please visit Food Manufacturers.