Thursday, March 19, 2009

Moderation in all things...

Even eggs.  Buy medium-sized eggs - or at least not the "jumbo".

Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, said: “There is no strong published evidence of pain in egg-laying hens but it's not unreasonable to think there may be a mismatch in the size of birds and the eggs they produce. We do often spot bloodstains on large eggs. As a personal decision I would never buy jumbo eggs.”
Prices for very large eggs have decreased slightly over the past year, something Mr Vesey believes may make farmers think again about their production. He would like to see higher prices paid for medium eggs to encourage production. There is little consumer demand for small eggs, which weigh less than 53g and are mostly used in processed food.
He thinks by changing the protein element of poultry feed it is possible for farmers to slow down the process of egg production so that hens can lay smaller eggs. He also suggests that farmers will make more profit from producing medium eggs because there will be fewer breakages. The volume of egg shell is the same on a medium as on a large or very large egg. Thin shells mean more cracked eggs.
Mark Williams, head of the British Egg Industry Council, said shoppers mostly opted for large eggs, thinking they offered better value for money. “But it is possible consumers could be switched off from buying large overnight,” he said.
Alan Pearson, spokesman for the British Poultry Veterinary Association, said: “Frankly I think there are bigger welfare issues that people have in their minds, such as hens in cages. The size of an egg rarely causes problems for the bird.”[More]

I know this may sound like a whiny activist issue, but after listening with horror to my daughters-in-law describe delivery recollections (one almost a ten-pounder), I have to admit I feel for the birds.

Plus Jan tells me unless otherwise specified, recipes always assume large eggsMaybe the folks they need to talk to are the chefs.


Sue said...

That sounds just crazy! My chickens lay bigger eggs as they get older eating whatever they can scounge up around the farm (mostly spilled feed, worms, bugs, kitchen scraps). They seem to fare none the worse for giving us those deliciously large eggs!

Bill Harshaw said...

I agree with Sue. Our hens 60 years ago started laying "peewee" eggs, then "pullet", then "medium", then "large", then some extra large. (Peewee was about the size of my thumb, if I remember correctly, medium were 21-24 oz per dozen, large 24-27, pullet 18-21.

Since the bloodspot is formed as the egg is forming, it doesn't have any relation to the size of the egg (Google "bloodspots eggs). And simple geometry would say the proportion of shell to contents decreases as the size of the egg increases. (There's more packaging material for a quart of milk than a gallon.)

threecollie said...

Ditto Sue's remarks on older hens laying larger eggs and not getting all upset about it.
We like our largest eggs and have kept old "ChickPea", buff orpington hen, around for years even though she only lays about a dozen eggs a year because each one of hers maxes out our egg scale.

Anonymous said...

It would do Agriculture a great service if you would check with an egg producer to find out the facts. We need your help to spread the good word about modern food production rather than giving credence to something as ridiculous as this.

Modern chickens are bred to lay numbers of eggs. Some of the commercial breeds lay a smaller egg. The medium egg market is much lower than large - currently about about 25 cents per dozen. The premium paid for extra large over large is small, just a few cents per dozen. Most producers manage the hens to produce large eggs. There is a disincentive to produce extra large so egg size is kept from being pushed higher.

Naturally there is some variation to the egg size that is produced so even if you are trying to get large you will get some jumbos.

Chickens naturally start off laying smaller eggs and egg size increases as the hen ages and the bones of the pelvis spread. But sometimes a young chicken will also put 2 yolks in one egg shell as their bodies aren't quite into the swing of things.

John Phipps said...


Thanks for your comments. Obviously anon and others perhaps read more into my curiosity on this topic than I actually believe. Like many other topics the novelty of the subject caught my eye, and as I remember, several other aggregators.

Just as I have cautioned other industrial producers like myself, dismissing the animal welfare movement as ridiculous may lead to more pushback than you expect from customers you need - especially at this particular moment of economic turmoil. I certainly see it it feedback I get.

As I try to do, I link the whole article for you to read and opine upon. I found it mildly interesting since it suggests demonstrated by consumer buying habits changing.

As an analogy, there is no sound basis for non-GMO prejudice IMHO, but I still respect the right of others to spend their dollars/euros/pounds as they choose to express their opinions on that issue. And if my countering arguments are unavailing, maybe that's my problem - not my customer's.

Thanks for the feedback - I'm sure many folks learned more about egg production.

Anonymous said...

Anon back,

Well, if I seem a little sensitive it's because I AM.

There are so many people who have never tried to make a living producing food trying to tell us that we are doing it all wrong. They don't know that the methods of housing and care that we use have been developed at the Universities and by Scientists. They think we are all just "Factory Farms" who are trying to grind every cent out of a chicken that we can.

They have not been around to try to produce eggs for 59 cents a dozen. They have not seen the improvements in health and production that are directly the result of better housing (yes, I'm talking about cages.)

They think everyone should get their food from a small farmer. The Factory Farms are a way to produce more food per acre - they don't even realize that this is an environmental improvement - using less arable land and producing more.

They want you to toil by hand to produce some food while they ride in their BMW's and send emails on their Blackberries.

I would ask that through your humor you teach and explain what we are really doing. PETA already has enough friends.

John Phipps said...


I appreciate your concerns. It is widespread among industrial producers (my term). My point is our frustration produces a disproportionate response too often.

I'll try to post some points about this soon to help explain how those of us who generate the vast bulk of our food can perhaps consider some alternate responses that do not reduce our professional standing or elevate our detractor's arguments.

I also have become sensitive (like you) to those who somehow place non-physical work, such as ummm, this blog or managing health insurance claims or attending zoning meetings as somehow inferior to things that make people sweaty and dirty.

In fact, the fact many producers will farm for literally nothing leads me to the conclusion it is a pastime. If it's "work" they have to pay you to do it, right? If they don't have to, why should they?

Work elitism is common among farmers because they have until been able to forestall abstraction in our profession. But as I spend more time at my computer and less outdoors to run my farm, I am convinced which activity is the hard work.

And which one I can't wait to get to.