Fact Sheet – Types of Eggs
June 27, 2010

Types of Eggs

Shell Eggs

Shell eggs are the raw eggs that a person can buy in the grocery. Many types of eggs are available for purchase today:

  • Grade AA, A, or B, determined by the interior quality of the egg and appearance/condition of the shell
  • Brown or white eggs
  • Sizes like jumbo, large, medium, small, peewee
  • Standard cage eggs, cage-free, free-range, organic, and specialty type eggs like omega-three fatty acid and other nutrient-added eggs

Raw shell eggs sold in grocery stores or to the food service industry undergo a vigorous washing and sanitizing process before being graded, packaged, refrigerated, and transported to be stocked in stores. Grading of eggs is a voluntary program run by the USDA that checks for both interior and exterior egg quality. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight or size

  • Grade AA – eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells.
  • Grade A – eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are “reasonably” firm.
  • Grade B – eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains. This grade is usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.

Size does not refer to the dimensions of an egg or how big it looks, but tells you the minimum required net weight per dozen eggs. While some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest, it is the total weight of the dozen eggs that puts them in one of the following classes:

Size or Weight Class Minimum net weight per dozen
Jumbo 30 ounces
Extra Large 27 ounces
Large 24 ounces
Medium 21 ounces
Small 18 ounces
Peewee 15 ounces

Any size cartons containing raw shell eggs must have the following instructions placed on the exterior of the carton:
SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: Keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.
Shell eggs can be pasteurized and are now available at some grocery stores. Like all eggs, they must be kept refrigerated and handled like you would a normal, raw shell eggs. Pasteurized raw shell eggs may be used to protect high-risk populations, like immune-compromised individuals including infirm cancer patients or children.

Egg Products

The term “egg products” refers to processed or convenience forms of eggs obtained by breaking and processing shell eggs. Egg products include whole eggs, egg whites, and egg yolks in frozen, refrigerated liquid, and dried forms available in a number of different product formulations like cake and cookie mixes, as well as specialty egg products. Specialty egg products can include pre-peeled hard-cooked eggs, egg salad, pre-cooked omelets, egg patties, quiches, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, and others.

Egg products are becoming increasingly popular in food service operations because they’re convenient to use and also provide a cost savings with regards to labor storage, and portion control. Frozen, refrigerated liquid, and dried egg products are similar to shell eggs in nutritional value and most functional properties. By law, all egg products are processed and pasteurized in sanitary facilities under supervision of the USDA. In pasteurization, the liquid part of the egg is rapidly heated and held at a minimum required temperature for a specified time. This destroys Salmonella, but it does not cook the eggs or affect their color, flavor, nutritional value, or use. Dried eggs are pasteurized by heating in the dried form. It is important to remember that while egg products are pasteurized, proper handling and storage is still a key part of providing a safe product.

Pasteurized egg products are being used more often to help ensure food safety. These products may be used to protect high-risk populations, like immune-compromised individuals including infirm cancer patients or children, or when preparing lightly cooked foods (such as sauces, salad dressings, or French toast).