I’m really lucky, when I fancy an egg sandwich I just nip out to the barn, push a chicken or duck out of the way and grab a couple of fresh eggs.
Not many people are that lucky and most have to buy their eggs in a supermarket but do you understand all that marking on the eggs, are they fresh, are they from battery chickens and are they local?
I am always harping on about buying locally produced food and knowing where your food comes from, so it’s time I gave you some information about eggs in order for you to choose what you are buying.
There is legislation to cover the production, marking, transporting, grading, packing and selling of eggs.
What consumers need to know about producers is:
Eggs without Stamps
Producers with less than 350 laying hens that do not sell at public markets or to shops do not have to register with the Egg Marketing Inspectorate and the eggs do not have to be stamped. Basically this means that if they sell door to door (ie directly from the farm or place of production like an allotment or to you at your home or workplace) then the eggs you buy will not show any marking.
Anyone with more than 50 hens that they sell to shops, at a local market or to egg packing stations must be registered with the Egg Marketing Inspectorate and the eggs must carry a code showing the country of origin, the producers identity number and the farming production method used (eg, free range or caged). If you buy eggs from a market stall, a farmers market or car boot sale the eggs must show this stamp.
Please note that if eggs are sold to you as Class A then they must carry a stamp. See Defra’s website for more information on (stamping).
Some Class A eggs will be marked “extra” or “extra fresh” and this means eggs are sold in packs where the eggs were graded, marked and packed within 4 days of laying.
The best before date must be a maximum of 28 days from the laying date.
Ever looked at a large and medium egg together and can’t see any difference? This is because Class A eggs must be sold according to weight not actual egg size.
Extra Large (XL) = 73g or more
Large (L) = 63 – 72g
Medium (M) = 53 – 62g
Small (S) = below 53g
Production Methods Code:
O = Organic
1 = Free Range
2 = Barn
3 = Caged
The minimum information a stamped egg must show is production type, country of origin and producers ID number, so it would look something like this:
this simply means it is a free range egg, produced in the UK and the producers ID number is 45762
To see how far your eggs have travelled from the production facility to your home then pop the code number into the egg miles calculator.
I believe it is always best to buy locally, so please try to source locally produced eggs where you can find out which production method is used. If possible visit the production site, you only have to do it once to satisfy yourself of the standard of welfare and qulity of eggs.
If you want to read more about production methods for eggs read Defra’s where they explain the criteria for keeping hens and what the requirements of each production method are.
The Vegetarian Society also have some up to date and interesting information on egg production and welfare of laying hens.
The British Free Range Egg Producers Association also has information on production types for eggs and their site is well worth a mooch around, some very interesting articles on there.