Here are answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions on eggs, egg farming and production:
Are there standards relating to different types of egg production?
There certainly are. Barn, Cage, Colony and Free-Range egg production are all governed by specific Minimum Standards for stockmanship, housing, feed and many more criteria set out in the Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare 2012. These regulations and provisions are administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
The Code of Welfare was developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), an independent, Government-appointed panel of specialists in animal welfare which includes veterinarians and a representative of the RNZSPCA.
In addition, all commercial egg farmers are required to operate within legal requirements for food safety and suitability. Every farm must also have a registered Risk Management Programme (RMP). Farms and processing businesses are regularly audited by MPI inspectors.
What does “Organic” mean?
“Organic” is a labelling term used on products produced in accordance with organic production standards, which may be certified by a certification body or authority. Organic agriculture is based on minimising the use of external inputs, e.g. avoiding or excluding the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, antibiotics, growth-promotants, genetic modification and irradiation.
When an egg is labelled as Certified Organic, what does that mean?
The eggs have been certified as organic by the independent accreditation organisation marked on the packaging, e.g. AsureQuality or Biogro.
These eggs will be free-range as this is required in all organic standards.
The organic standards set out by the various accreditation organisations have clear requirements for organic feed and production methods; full details are published on their websites.
The accreditation organisations are independent and rigorously audit egg producers and accredit those that meet the standards.
Are Colony hens still in cages?
Yes, but Colony cages provide approximately a third more space per hen for expressing natural behaviours including nesting, scratching and perching. Colonies provide a minimum 750 sq cm per hen, and like in an “open-plan” home, hens have access to the full cage area, with room to move and interact socially with other hens.
How many hens are in each Colony cage compared to conventional cages?
Depending on their design, Colonies can house from 20-60 hens. Scientific studies show this is an ideal size for a flock. Conventional cages house four to six hens.
What is the difference between brown and white eggs?
The breed of hen determines the colour of the shell. Hens with white feathers lay white eggs; hens with brown feathers lay brown eggs. There is no difference in the quality, flavour and nutritional value of white or brown eggs.
Why do egg yolks differ in colour?
Yolk colour depends solely on the diet of the hen. If a hen gets plenty of yellow-orange plant pigments (xanthophylls), these will be deposited into the yolk. Hens fed food containing yellow corn lay eggs with medium-yellow yolks. Those eating wheat or barley lay lighter-coloured yolks. Colour variations have no effect on the quality, flavour or nutritional value of eggs.
How many eggs can I eat?
Eggs are a highly nutritious food that can make an important contribution to a healthy, well balanced diet. They are a natural source of at least 11 different vitamins and minerals as well as high-quality protein, omega-3 fats and antioxidants. The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation suggests eating up to six eggs a week as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
How long do eggs last?
The Best-before date on a carton of eggs tells you how long the eggs inside it will stay fresh if they are kept refrigerated after purchase. During this time (usually about 35 days) there is little change in the nutritional value of the egg, but the appearance and qualities of the egg may change as the egg ages.
Temperature, humidity and handling all contribute to freshness. A one week-old egg kept in ideal conditions can be fresher than an egg left at room temperature for one day. Most commercially-produced eggs reach supermarkets within a few days of being laid and in New Zealand it is also possible to purchase eggs which are guaranteed to be sold the same day they are laid.
How do I check whether an egg is boiled or raw?
To tell whether an egg is raw or hard-boiled, spin it. If the egg spins easily it is hard-boiled. If it wobbles it is raw.
I’ve had a carton of eggs in my fridge for a few weeks. Can I still use them?
You can use your oldest eggs for baking cakes, quiches and frittatas. Older eggs can also be useful for hard-boiling, scrambling, and making omelettes. If you are hard-boiling eggs, it is best to ones that are a few days old as they are easier to peel. The fresher the egg, the more likely the white will stick to the shell.
How safe are eggs?
The risk of getting an illness from eggs is very low. However, the nutrients that make eggs a high-quality food for humans are also a good growth medium for bacteria. In addition to food, bacteria also need moisture, a favourable temperature and time in order to multiply and increase the risk of illness. In the rare event that an egg contains bacteria, you can reduce the risk by proper chilling and eliminate it by proper cooking. When you handle eggs with care, they pose no greater food-safety risk than any other perishable food.
Is it safe to eat raw eggs?
It is best not to serve raw or lightly-cooked dishes made with eggs. The risk of food poisoning from eggs is highest with raw and lightly-cooked dishes.
What causes blood spots?
Small spots of blood are occasionally found in an egg yolk. These do not indicate a fertile egg and are caused by the rupture of a blood vessel on the yolk surface during formation of the egg. Such eggs are suitable for consumption and the spot can be easily removed with the tip of a knife.
Why are some hard-boiled eggs difficult to peel?
The fresher an egg is the more difficult it is to peel because the white tends to stick to the shell. Eggs that are more than a week old are best for hard-boiling.
Why are egg whites sometimes cloudy?
The cloudiness of the whites in raw eggs is due to the presence of carbon dioxide which has not had time to escape.
Why do some hard-boiled eggs have a greenish ring around the yolk?
The greenish ring is due to an iron and sulphur compound which forms when eggs are overcooked or not cooled quickly. The greenish ring is completely harmless.
What are the stringy white pieces in egg whites?
The edible rope-like strands found in egg whites are called chalazae (pron: ka-LAY-zee). They keep the yolk centred in the thick white.
Are eggs an economical food?
Eggs are one of today’s best food buys. Eggs supply high-quality protein and a variety of important vitamins and minerals at a very low price.
For more information visit these websites:
Egg Producers Federation http://www.eggfarmers.org.nz
NZ Biodynamic Association http://www.biodynamic.org.nz/
Organic Farm NZ http://www.organicfarm.org.nz/
Link to Organics on the Ministry for Primary Industries website http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz/industry/sectors/organics/
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