Market Classes & Grades of Eggs

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

Labeling of classes and grades of eggs makes it easy for sellers and buyers to know what kind of product they are getting. In this lesson, we will review the USDA labeling guidance regarding the quality and weight of eggs.

Egg Grades and Weight

Dave loves eggs; hard boiled, scrambled or made into a pound cake, he eats at least a dozen a week. One day though, walking through the store, he finally wondered what the labeling on the package means with regard to weight and grading. Just what are all these differences? Let's go over with Dave how the US Department of Agriculture defines the standards for labeling commercially sold eggs.

USDA Grade

The purpose of egg grading is to classify eggs into groups of similar quality, size, and weight. This makes it easier to market and sell eggs. When Dave opens a carton of eggs, they all have a similar appearance, but he would probably be disappointed if he saw obviously different eggs in a single carton. Grading allows a consumer like Dave to buy eggs without having to personally inspect every egg to make sure it is the kind he wants. Additionally, wholesalers and retailers also know what quality of product they are buying when they pay for a certain grade of egg.

The eggs at Dave's local grocery store come in one of the three USDA egg grades; AA, A, or B. These grades separate eggs into groups based on the quality of the shell, air cell, egg white, and yolk. AA is the highest quality while B is the lowest quality of commercially sold eggs.

An AA grade egg has a clean and unbroken shell. The air cell or bubble in the egg is no more than 1/8th of an inch deep as measured from the top of the larger end of the egg. The egg white is clear and firm. The yolk appears to have a slight outline visible when light is shined through the egg. There are practically no defects in the yolk such as a double yolk, an egg within an egg, or blood.

A grade eggs share most of the same standards as AA grade eggs. The major difference is that the air cell can go as deep as 3/16th of an inch. The egg white is less firm than an AA grade egg but still clear. The outline of the yolk is well defined under light.

B grade eggs have numerous cosmetic defects compared to A and AA grade eggs, but are still perfectly safe and edible. Because of the defects though, Dave can buy these eggs at a cheaper price. The air bubble is in excess of 3/16th inches deep. The white is weak and watery with small blood spots or gray spots known as meat spots that don't exceed 1/8th inches in diameter. The yolk will be plainly visible though larger and flatter than normal. The egg may have a small amount of dirt or other foreign matter stuck to it. It may also be cracked or broken, but with an intact membrane preventing any leakage.

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