(BPT) - Despite being a staple in most American households, there is a lot of confusion about eggs. For example, why are eggshells different colors? What does an egg’s yolk color mean? Why do eggs need refrigeration in the United States but not in some other countries?
Get ready to boost your EIQ (egg intelligence quotient) thanks to the egg experts at Organic Valley. Here are their insights to some of the most frequently asked questions about eggs, and we’ll start with one that’s been top-of-mind for a lot of people recently.
Are organic eggs safe to eat during an Avian Flu outbreak?
According to the USDA, yes, organic eggs are safe to eat. And, the following statement from the USDA provides context as to the safety of food potentially impacted by any Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI): “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of all poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 F is recommended as a general food safety precaution.”
Why are eggs refrigerated in the United States but not in some other countries?
In the U.S., eggs are washed before being sold to prevent the spread of salmonella. The washing process removes a protective outer cuticle on the shell so they must then be refrigerated. Overseas in countries like Great Britain and France, eggs can often be found unrefrigerated in the grocery aisles. These countries do not wash their eggs because they believe the protective cuticle reduces exposure to salmonella, and therefore, they do not need to be refrigerated. It's essentially two different processes to achieve the same thing: lowered risk of salmonella exposure.
Why are chicken eggs different colors?
The most common colors of eggs found in American grocery stores are white and brown, but these beautiful birds can lay eggs in a rainbow of hues. More importantly, the color of the egg is not an indicator of quality or nutrition. Chicken eggs can come in a variety of colors, including peach, blue, green, yellow, speckled and more. The color of the egg depends on the breed of chicken because different chickens release different color pigments when the egg moves through a chicken's body before being laid.
What does an egg’s yolk color mean?
The bright sunshine center provides a pop of color every time you crack open an egg. Some people believe the deeper the color, the higher the nutrient value, but that’s not the case; no matter the color, the nutrition is the same. The yolk color primarily comes from the pigments in the hen's food. The more yellow-orange pigments consumed — called xanthophylls, found widely in nature — the darker the yolk. Yolk color can vary seasonally if hens spend more time outdoors in warmer months eating seeds, grasses, and bugs in addition to their regular diet.
Do natural and organic mean the same thing?
“Natural” is a term you often read on food packages, but this word can be broadly interpreted and is not well-regulated by the government or any other entities. In contrast, the term "organic" is strictly regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. When you buy certified organic eggs – like all of the eggs from Organic Valley – you are getting eggs from hens that eat organic feed and are not kept in cages. The hens' feed does not contain animal byproducts, or synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
What's the difference between cage-free and free range?
Many people buy organic in part to support humane animal care, but it's important to know organic eggs don't necessarily come from hens openly grazing in fields. Cage-free means that no cages are used, but those hens could live in crowded indoor spaces. Free-range means the hens are not caged and roam some of the time outdoors; however, keep in mind the term is not USDA regulated so exact meaning can differ by brand.
Free to Forage® is how Organic Valley describes important aspects of the egg production standards used by its farmer-members when caring for their flocks. In an effort to enable laying hens to exhibit natural behaviors, Organic Valley requires that all birds have access to fresh air, sunshine, and organic pasture (weather permitting), and an outdoor space that is free of toxic pesticides, herbicides, or GMO plants. The cooperative, and their member farmers, believe it's important to find ways to go beyond the animal care requirements of the National Organic Standard.
How long are eggs good for?
Because eggs in the United States are washed and refrigerated, they have a shelf life of around 45 days, which is longer than unwashed eggs found in other countries, which have a shelf life of around 21 days. Too many eggs in your refrigerator? Freeze them! That’s right — just crack them out of the shell and store in an airtight container until you’re ready to consume them, up to one year.
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