These are some of the most common questions we get asked by consumers. I'll be adding more Q's and A's so check back occasionally. * How old are eggs sold in grocery stores? Eggs are delivered from the farm to your grocery store in about 3 to 7 days. As consumers continue to look for ways to buy food produced close to home, our egg farmers are proud to provide them with locally produced eggs that travel from farm to table (with a brief stop at a grading station where they are washed, inspected and weighed) in just a few days. * How can hens lay eggs that are different sizes? A hen starts laying eggs when she is 17 or 18 weeks old. The eggs she lays tend to be small when she first starts to lay (although she may lay an occasional double-yolked egg). As she gets older, she lays larger eggs. * Which type of egg should I buy? You really can’t go wrong with any of the choices at the egg case. There is plenty of variety to choose from. The options may include classic white or brown eggs, omega-3 eggs, free run eggs, free range eggs, organic eggs, and vitamin-enriched eggs. Consider the merits of each type to decide which is best for you and your family. Some eggs may be slightly different in their nutritional value than classic eggs, or they may come from hens housed or fed in a different way. All eggs, no matter which type, are produced according to the same high standards of quality, freshness and cleanliness. * What are omega-3 eggs? All eggs naturally contain some omega-3, but omega-3 enhanced eggs are laid by hens fed a diet that contains 10 to 20 percent flaxseed. Flaxseed contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Omega-3 fat can't be made by our bodies so we need to get it from the food we eat. There is about 0.4 g omega-3 fat in an omega-3 egg. That's about four times the amount found in a classic egg as the latest research shows there is 0.1 g omega-3 egg in a classic egg. Two omega-3 eggs provide 50 to 70% of your daily omega-3 needs. (According to Canada's Food Guide, one serving of Meat and Alternates is two eggs.) * Why do omega-3 eggs sometimes taste or smell a little fishy? A little background is necessary first. Omega-3 eggs are produced by feeding hens a diet enriched with flaxseed. Flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids, and these fats are transferred to the eggs the hens lay. Omega-3 fat is also found in fish. There is a brand of omega-3 eggs on the market in Ontario laid by hens whose diet includes flaxseed and fish oil. It makes sense that these eggs might smell a little fishy since the omega-3 in them comes from both fish oil and flaxseed. However, omega-3 fat - no matter whether in flaxseed or fish - can have a fishy aroma and flavour. It's simply a characteristic of the omega-3 fat. Not everyone who eats omega-3 eggs notices anything fishy about them, but if you have a keen sense of smell or taste, you just might. * Is the amount of omega-3 in omega-3 eggs worth the extra money these eggs cost? Omega-3 eggs are more expensive than classic eggs - often about a dollar more. If you're not eating other sources of omega-3 (like fish) or taking an omega-3 supplement, eggs are an economical way to get at least some of the omega-3 your body needs. The omega-3 is in the yolk, so be sure to eat the whole egg. * Are omega-3 eggs low in cholesterol? The amount of cholesterol as well as the total amount of fat in omega-3 eggs and classic eggs are very similar. * Can't I just eat flaxseed myself to get omega-3? Yes, you could. About a tablespoon (15 mL) of ground flaxseed will give you the recommended amount of omega-3 your body needs for the day. * What are other dietary sources of omega-3? The best sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna. The form of omega-3 in these foods is EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid); these forms are readily used by our bodies. Some plant foods also contain omega-3; these include walnuts, ground flaxseed, flax oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and soybeans. They contain omega-3 in the form of ALA (alpha linolenic acid). Our bodies are not able to use ALA as easily. We can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but this conversion is not very inefficient. Interestingly, hens are able to convert the AHA in flaxseed to DHA more readily. Their eggs have between 75 and 130 mg DHA, depending on the type of omega-3 egg. * What is the difference between white and brown eggs? (Are brown eggs more nutritious than white eggs? There is no nutritional difference between white and brown eggs. The shell colour depends on the breed of the hen that lays the egg. Usually white-feathered hens lay white eggs and brown-feathered hens lay brown eggs. Brown eggs generally cost a little more because brown hens are larger and tend to eat more than white hens. Also, there are fewer brown eggs available. * What causes double-yolked eggs? A hen will sometimes lay double-yolked eggs when she is beginning to lay eggs (at about 18 or 19 weeks of age) or near the end of her reproductive life due to hormonal changes. When this happens, the shell forms around two yolks instead of one, creating an egg with two yolks. Double-yolked eggs are safe to eat and cook with. If you want to use them in a recipe (most recipes are written for large eggs), their additional volume may affect the outcome of the recipe. * How are eggs sized? Eggs are sized by weight. Eggs in the same carton may look like they are different sizes, but their weight will be within a similar range. The following minimum weights are used to classify eggs into different sizes: Peewee eggs - less than 42 g Small eggs - at least 42 g Medium eggs - at least 49 g Large eggs - at least 56 g Extra large eggs - at least 63 g Jumbo eggs - 70 g or more * How can you determine how fresh an egg is? Check the “Best Before” date stamped on the carton. This date is about 35 days from the packaging date. It indicates the length of time the eggs will maintain their Grade A quality. If kept refrigerated, the eggs can be consumed a week or two after that date. However, they should be used in a thoroughly cooked dish (i.e. baked, hard-cooked or scrambled) rather than soft-poached or fried. To ensure eggs maintain their freshness, keep them refrigerated. For every hour an egg is left unrefrigerated, it loses a day's freshness. Keep eggs in their carton in the main body of the refrigerator. Egg shells are porous which means odours can penetrate the shell. Keeping eggs in the carton provides protection from strong-smelling foods and from breakage through unnecessary handling. As an egg ages, some natural changes in quality will occur - the air space at the wide end of the egg will become larger; the yolk will flatten, look larger and break more readily; and the white will become thin and watery. * Is a dark yolk an indication of a better egg? Egg yolk colour can range from pale yellow to deep orange. Yolk colour does not affect the quality of the egg. Most people don't notice any difference in flavour between eggs with deeper-coloured yolks and those with pale yolks. Others say they do, with a preference for one over the other. As taste preferences are subjective, this is a matter of personal opinion. The type of feed a hen eats influences the colour of the yolk. Geography affects which grains are used to make up the feed ration. For example, Ontario egg farmers tend to feed their hens a corn-based diet which results in a deeper yellow or orange coloured yolk than found in eggs laid by hens on the Canadian Prairies. Prairie chickens receive a wheat-based diet so the yolks in their eggs tend to quite pale in comparison. Despite the difference in colour, the nutritional value of the eggs is the same, except for a few exceptions: * omega-3 eggs - ground flax seed is added to the hens' feed, * eggs with enhanced levels of vitamins - vitamins are added to the hens' feed. All feed is carefully balanced to ensure the laying hens are getting the nutrients they require for good health. * Should you limit the number of eggs you eat because of the cholesterol in them? Scientific research shows that dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol in food) has a minimal effect on the blood cholesterol level in our body. To control blood cholesterol, it is more important to cut back on saturated and trans fats. Eggs contain very little saturated fat and no trans fat. Eating eggs will not increase your risks for heart disease. Eggs contain many important nutrients your body needs such as protein, B vitamins, zinc, iron, choline and lutein. If you were to leave eggs out of your diet because of concerns about dietary cholesterol, you might very likely limit your intake of these nutrients. If you have elevated blood cholesterol, you can likely enjoy eggs more often than you think. Get personalized advice by talking it over with a registered dietitian or doctor. * Which part of the egg is more nutritious - the yolk or the white? Together the yolk and white make a nutrient-rich food. The yolk contains many essential nutrients including iron, zinc, phosphorous, vitamins A, B6 and B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, choline and thiamin, as well as almost half of the protein and riboflavin in the whole egg. And, yolks are among the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. The white contains more than half of the egg's total protein and riboflavin. Enjoy the whole egg for maximum nutritional benefit. * How can you tell if an egg is fresh? There is a Best Before date stamped on the end of each carton which indicates freshness. As long as the eggs have been kept refrigerated, this date will reflect approximately how long the eggs will maintain their Grade A freshness and quality. A fresh egg, in its shell, will sink in water while an old egg will float. This happens because as an egg ages, it absorbs air through tiny holes or pores in its shell. Over time, moisture from the egg white evaporates and the inner shell membrane shrinks, causing the air cell at the wide end of the egg to expand. When an egg is cracked open, the yolk of a fresh egg will sit up high and the white will be thick and closely surround the yolk. In an older egg, the yolk will be flat and will break readily, and the white will be thin and watery. * Can eggs be eaten past the Best Before date? If they have been kept refrigerated, eggs can be eaten for a week or two after the Best Before date. Keep in mind, however, that the Best Before date (about 35 days from the packaging date) indicates the length of time the eggs will maintain their Grade A quality and their fresh egg flavour. After the Best Before date, eggs should be cooked thoroughly (use them in baking or for scrambling, hard-cooking, etc.). * How should eggs be stored? Eggs should be stored in their carton on a shelf in the main body of the refrigerator. Keeping them in the egg compartment on the door (new fridges don't even have this feature anymore!) will not provide a consistent and cool enough temperature. Leaving eggs in their carton will protect them from breakage and keep them from absorbing strong odours from other foods. It will also allow you to keep track of the Best Before date. * Can I use an egg with a cracked shell? The shell of the egg protects the contents from contamination, therefore we recommend that you buy clean, uncracked eggs. If you find an egg in the carton with a broken shell, you can still use it with care. Use it as soon as possible in a dish that is cooked thoroughly. Do not use cracked eggs in drinks, meringues, uncooked sauces or icings. Do not use a cracked egg if the egg's contents are leaking through the shell, or if the egg is stuck to the carton or the shell is dirty or stained. * How long can hard-cooked (hard-boiled) eggs be kept? Hard-cooked eggs, in the shell, will keep for about a week in a covered container in the refrigerator. Hard-cooked eggs can also be peeled and stored for about 5 days. * How long can pickled eggs be kept? Homemade pickled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for about a month. * How can you tell if an egg is raw or hard-cooked without cracking it open? Place the egg on its side and give it a spin with your fingers. A hard-cooked egg will spin smoothly and rapidly. A raw egg will wobble and spin slowly because the liquid centre will prevent the egg from building momentum to keep it turning. * Why are hard-cooked (hard-boiled) eggs sometimes difficult to peel? The short answer is that the eggs are too fresh. For easy peeling, hard-cook eggs that have been in your refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Now here's the long answer (i.e. the how and why)! A thin membrane lines the inside of an egg shell, separating the shell from the egg white. The membrane of a very fresh egg (a day or two old) sticks very close to the egg white, making peeling the egg very difficult, because a fresh egg has a pH (or acidity) between 7.6 and 7.9. After the egg has sat in the refrigerator for a few days, the acidity lowers and the pH goes up to around 9.2 . (I know! You'd think a higher number would mean the acidity goes up, but it works the other way!) A lowered acidity means the membrane doesn't stick to the egg white as much, and the egg becomes easier to peel. How does the acidity decrease, you ask? There is a coating naturally found on the outside of an egg shell when the egg is laid. When eggs are inspected and graded at the grading station, this coating is washed off. The shell of an egg contains tiny pores; once the coating iaround the shell is gone, air can begin to enter the egg through the pores. Carbon dioxide is naturally present in the egg (it's what sometimes gives the white of a fresh egg a cloudy appearance) and with the pores exposed, the carbon dioxide starts escaping out of the egg. This changes the pH of the egg, lowering its acidity. At the higher pH, the membrane doesn't stick to the egg white as much so the membrane and shell peel more easily. A few other things happen as an egg ages. The contents shrink (the white and yolk begin to lose moisture and evaporate) and the air space at the wide end of the egg gets larger. If you hard-cook and peel an older egg, you may notice that the wide end of the peeled egg is flat. That's where the air space is in an egg. This space is very small when the egg is first laid but gets bigger over time. Starting to peel the egg at this end can make peeling the egg easier. Finally, while an older egg will peel more easily, the down side is that an older egg white is thinner and less able to keep the yolk in the middle of the egg. This can affect the appearance of sliced hard-cooked eggs, devilled eggs or fried eggs. * What causes the grey ring that is sometimes found around the yolk of hard-cooked eggs? This discolouration is the result of a reaction between the sulfur and iron naturally found in eggs. It occurs when eggs are overcooked, or when there is a high level of iron in the cooking water. Although the colour isn't very attractive, the eggs are safe to eat and still nutritious and flavourful. An appropriate cooking time and rapid cooling of the eggs after they are cooked will prevent the formation of this grey ring. Check out our recommended method for hard-cooking (hard-boiling) eggs. * What is the dark red spot occasionally found in an egg? This is a blood spot; it's caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the hen when the egg is forming. This is a natural occurrence and the hen is not harmed when it happens. Though eggs with blood spots are normally removed during the inspection and grading process, occasionally they may slip by undetected and end up in a carton. During grading, the eggs are passed over a bright light that makes it possible to see the insides of the eggs. It is harder to see the contents of brown eggs through the brown shell so blood spots in brown eggs are sometimes not noticed during grading. This is why blood spots may be more frequently found in brown eggs. An egg with a blood spot is safe to eat; you can cook and bake with it in all the usual ways. If you don't like the look of the spot when you crack the egg open (we don't blame you!), you can remove it with the tip of a knife before you cook the eggs.