Most commercially produced chicken eggs intended for human consumption are unfertilized, since the laying hens are kept without roosters. Fertile eggs can be purchased and eaten as well, with little nutritional difference. Fertile eggs will not contain a developed embryo, as refrigeration prohibits cellular growth for an extended amount of time.
Chicken eggs are widely used in many types of dishes, both sweet and savory. Eggs can be pickled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, scrambled, fried and refrigerated. They can also be eaten raw, though this is not recommended for people who may be especially susceptible to salmonella, such as the elderly, the infirm, or pregnant women. In addition, the protein in raw eggs is only 51% bio-available, whereas that of a cooked egg is nearer 91% bio-available, meaning the protein of cooked eggs is nearly twice as absorbable as the protein from raw eggs. As an ingredient, egg yolks are an important emulsifier in the kitchen, and the proteins in egg white allow it to form foams and aerated dishes.
Eggs and Salmonellosis
Some raw eggs carry bacteria that can cause a nasty digestive tract infection called salmonellosis. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps and can appear anywhere from 12 hours to three days after eating contaminated eggs. Most people recover without any problems, but infants, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems may become very sick because the infection can spread from the digestive tract to the blood stream and my even cause death.
You can’t tell which eggs are contaminated with salmonella by looking at them or smelling them, so you need to treat all raw eggs like potential carriers and follow proper food safety practices.
The contents of an egg are neatly packaged by the hen in a shell made of calcium carbonate. A very thin coating of protein (the cuticle ) covers the shell. The cuticle and shell, however, are not the only barriers protecting the egg from microbial insult. Just within the shell are two membranes that also act to block the movement of contaminants into the egg. The albumen (egg white) contains proteins that act to limit microbial growth.
The natural package might appear to be a complete defense system for the egg, but there are ways in which its defensive powers can be reduced or eliminated. The egg shell itself is not a solid structure: it contains 7,000 to 17,000 pores. Under normal conditions the cuticle prevents bacteria from entering the egg, but a cracked egg may permit bacterial entry.
Once you have the eggs in the kitchen…
If you buy your eggs in a carton, store them in that same carton. For the best maintenance of egg quality, place the closed carton of eggs on one of the shelves in your refrigerator 7.2° to 12.8°C. The egg cups commonly built into a refrigerator door do not provide the best egg storage. If stored in an open container, eggs can pick up unwanted flavors from other food items (onions, fish, etc.). Without the protection of the carton, eggs lose moisture and gas at a more rapid rate. This leads to a decline in the egg’s functional properties (foaming, coagulation, etc.). Also, opening and closing the door will jar the eggs and cause the chalazae (twisted strands of protein on either side of the yolk) to break. Intact chalazae serve to anchor the yolk in the center of the egg.
Do not wash eggs. If you purchase commercially produced eggs, they have been cleaned at the processing plant and no further cleaning is necessary. If you have your own chickens and find that you are collecting dirty eggs, washing them is not the best solution. Provide your hens with ample nest boxes that have plenty of good, clean nesting material. It is easier to produce clean eggs than to clean dirty eggs.
Improper washing can actually introduce contaminants into the egg. If you collect a recently laid egg or one that has been out in the sun, for instance, the egg will be warm. Placing that warm egg in a bucket of cold water will create a temperature differential and contaminants can be sucked into the egg through the pores in the shell. If you have a dirty egg, the safest way to clean it is to brush off the adhering dirt with a piece of sandpaper.
What changes take place with storage?
As an egg ages, it loses CO2 and moisture through the shell pores. This causes the air cell within the egg to get larger. With this loss of CO2 , the egg’s pH becomes more basic and structural changes take place in the albumen. The mechanisms involved are not completely understood, but the result is a thinning of the albumen. It is for this reason that fresher eggs fry better: the yolk is still well centered and protected by the thick albumen.
Why are some hard-cooked eggs easier to peel than others?
Ironically, the hard-cooked eggs that are most difficult to peel are usually fresh eggs. As mentioned above, properly handled eggs that are a few days old contain more CO2 than old eggs, so their albumen has a lower (less basic) pH value. The difficulty you may encounter in removing the shell of a fresh hard-cooked egg has been associated with the low pH of the albumen. As stored eggs lose CO2 , the albumen pH rises; when these eggs are hard-cooked, they are easier to peel. Thus, eggs that have been stored in the refrigerator for about a week are usually easier to peel when hard-cooked. If you are unsure about the age of a carton of eggs, you can check the sell-by date on the carton. Regulations require that the sell-by date be no more than 30 days from the packing date. If more than 23 days remain before the sell-by date, the eggs may not peel well.
Why do boiled eggs have grayish-green yolks?
When eggs are boiled for a long period of time and cooled too slowly, iron and sulfur (two of the minerals in the eggs) form an iron-sulfur complex with protein. This complex has the characteristic grayish-green color associated with the yolks of overcooked eggs. This complex is not harmful, but it does detract from the appearance of some hard-cooked egg dishes. To avoid this discoloration, follow the steps below when you hard-cook eggs:
1. Place the eggs in a pot and add enough cold water to cover them.
2. Bring the water to a boil.
3. Cover the pot and turn off the heat.
4. Let the eggs cook in the hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
5. At the end of the cooking time, cool the eggs quickly in cold running tap water or iced water.
Why are some egg whites cloudy?
Cloudy whites usually indicate very fresh eggs. The cloudy appearance is caused by carbon dioxide in the egg white. Egg shells are often treated with a tasteless, odorless, harmless, light mineral oil. The oil helps seal the shell’s pores and slows down the loss of the carbon dioxide that give whites their cloudy appearance. As the eggs age, carbon dioxide is lost and the egg whites become clearer.
Are eggs with yellow or straw-colored albumen wholesome?
Yes. Yellow-colored albumen merely indicates the presence of riboflavin (vitamin B ).
More than half of an egg’s total riboflavin content is in the albumen.
Should eggs with calcareous deposits on the shell be discarded?
No. When a hen’s egg shell formation is upset, harmless abnormalities will result. If the egg shell is fractured during formation, the hen will deposit an extra layer of calcium compounds to repair the fracture. Sometimes extra cuticle protein accumulates and causes a colored mass on the surface of the shell. At other times, extra calcium deposits accumulate to give the egg shell a bumpy surface.
What is the nutritional value of an egg?
The egg is a wonderful source of protein, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Nutritionists routinely compare other food proteins to eggs and they consider the egg to be the standard or perfect protein. Eggs are among the most complete, yet least expensive, protein foods. The following vitamins are found in significant amounts in the egg – vitamins A, D, E, K and B.
What goes into the feed of today’s laying hen?
The poultry producer provides the hen with a balanced diet that meets all her needs for body maintenance and egg production. We know more about the nutrition of the chicken than about any other animal, including the human. The laying hen’s diet is predominantly a corn and soybean mixture, but also contains vitamins and minerals and may contain other grains and by-product feeds such as fish, meat, or cottonseed meal. NO HORMONES can legally be fed to chickens used for egg or poultry production.
What is the shelf-life of eggs?
Eggs have excellent keeping quality; the type of egg (white,brown and organic etc.) does not affect shelf-life. When kept in the egg carton ( not in the egg tray in the refrigerator door) and properly refrigerated, clean eggs that are free of cracks will keep for months.
Since eggs have very small pores in the shell, they can pick up odors from foods such as onions or fish that are stored next to them. This is another good reason for storing eggs in their retail carton or some other closed container.