Study concludes no quality difference among egg types

ATHENS, Ga.—On average there are no substantial quality differences among eggs from different production systems, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study.

No matter which specialty egg is purchased, it will be nearly the same quality as any other egg, according to the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit.

ARS staff studied large white and brown chicken eggs with various production and nutritional differences such as those from traditional, cage-free and free-roaming production environments; eggs that had been pasteurized and nutritionally enhanced; and fertile eggs.

The goal was to determine whether physical quality and compositional differences exist among the different options available to consumers.

The team found the biggest difference between brown and whites eggs was the size of eggs within a carton. Though brown eggs weighed more, white eggs had higher percentages of total solids and crude fat.

There was no significant difference in the interior quality of white and brown eggs, according to the study. The research did not address flavor, food safety concerns or overall nutritional quality.

"This type of practical research is more important than ever to maintaining consumer confidence in the quality and safety of our nation’s food supply," said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. "Consumers face a a lot of marketing hype and misinformation concerning foods, and this research clearly shows that in respect to egg quality there is no one superior production system or egg color. Consumers need to weigh that information when making their purchase decisions."

A recent study of retail checkout scanner transactions indicates Americans are buying eggs from farms that use cage housing for their hens by a margin of 40 to one over eggs from cage-free systems.

The data was compiled by Information Resources Inc. from 34,000 U.S. grocery and other stores. IRI found that 92 percent of all eggs consumers purchased in retail stores in 2009 were from farms that used cage housing; 2 percent from cage-free operations; and 1 percent from free-range operations.

Contact Banks at 804-290-1114 or Sara Owens, VFBF special projects coordinator, at 804-290-1133.

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