Size: Egg size is determined by weight per dozen. Grocery stores usually stock extra-large, large, or medium eggs. A dozen extra-large eggs weigh 27 ounces, while a dozen medium eggs weigh 21 ounces. Buy the size according to what you plan to do with them.
Grade: A USDA grade shield on the package certifies that the eggs were processed and packaged in a USDA-inspected operation. Some eggs may have state seals, which show that the eggs were produced and sold within the same state and meet or exceed the USDA standards.
Egg Substitutes or Liquid Eggs: These are products that can contain whole eggs, egg whites, or egg whites with additional ingredients to make them appear and taste like whole eggs. Read the ingredient list to be sure you’re getting the product you want. Egg substitutes are usually pasteurized and can be safely eaten raw or undercooked.
Pasteurized Shell Eggs: These eggs have undergone heat treatment to destroy potential bacteria. They may safely be served raw or undercooked. Pasteurized eggs should be kept in the refrigerator and treated with the same care as any shell egg or egg product.
High-Nutrient/Low-Cholesterol Eggs: Some egg producers promote their eggs as having lower cholesterol and higher omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and/or vitamin D. These changes can be due to what the chicken eats. Nutrient claims cannot be made on a package label if they cannot be validated by laboratory tests. These eggs are generally more expensive.
Organic Eggs: Organic eggs must follow the USDA’s organic standards. They must be from free-range hens and their feed must have ingredients grown without pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or commercial fertilizers. Organic eggs are usually more expensive because of increased farming costs. Studies have shown that there is no nutritional difference between organic and traditional eggs.
Free-Range Eggs: These are produced by hens that have access to the outdoors and are allowed to forage for wild plants and insects. These eggs are generally more expensive, there is not a nutritional difference between free-range eggs and traditional eggs.
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.